K J Smith Solicitors

Cohabiting Couples Need Protection From 'Common Law Marriage' Myth

Published: 19 September 2013

A recent survey carried out by family law organisation Resolution highlights that the 'Common Law Marriage' myth needs to be clearer to protect unmarried couples cohabiting together. The survey was conducted on Members of Parliament in the build-up to the Liberal Democrats annual conference in Glasgow where they are set to debate a policy motion on cohabitants rights.

Results of the survey revealed that 69% of MPs agree that among their constituents, there is still a common misconception that 'common law marriage' exists and that a new law needs to be put in place to protect cohabiting couples.

Resolution - who are made up of over 6,000 family law professionals in England and Wales - claim that cohabitation is rapidly becoming the most popular type of family in the UK, so there needs to be more protection for unmarried couples or couples that separate. There were 5.9 million people cohabiting in the UK last year, which has doubled in the last 16 years.

The man responsible for Resolution's cohabitation research, Steve Kirwan, responded saying, "This poll of MPs confirms the findings of a public survey in 2008, in which 51% of respondents believed, incorrectly, that cohabitants had the same rights as married couples.

"And yet the current situation for people who live together in England and Wales, more often than not, creates injustice and hardship.

"This isn't about whether you believe people should be married or not, this is about ensuring that people are aware of their legal rights – and that fact that more than two thirds of MPs identify this as a problem clearly points to the need for reform.

"Despite the myth that there is such a thing as 'common law' marriage – which hasn't existed since 1753 – it is possible to live together with someone for decades and even to have children together, and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner's welfare. That is simply wrong, it needs to change, and it needs to change now."

Cohabitants rights are one of the burning issues that is set to be discussed at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference, which takes place in Glasgow from 14th-18th September, with the new proposal to be discussed on Monday 16th September. Under the new proposals, any couples that lived together for a period of two years or more would be entitled to the right to make a financial claim - with an amount that reflects any financial losses they incurred as a result of the relationship.

Currently there are very few laws to protect unmarried couples living together should they ever separate, so unmarried couples are encouraged to arrange a cohabitation agreement to help protect both parties in the event of a relationship breakdown.

At K J Smith Solicitors, we have many years of experience in drawing up cohabitation agreements and can offer expert advice on all aspects of cohabitation law. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, please contact us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).

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