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Recent data showing a rise in couples choosing to live together rather than marry has prompted one of York’s leading law firms, Hethertons Solicitors, to highlight the myths around ‘common law marriage’.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cohabitation, where a couple lives together but are not married or in a civil partnership, has increased by 26 per cent in the last decade.
The specialist family law team at Hethertons Solicitors have said that cohabiting couples should talk openly about their financial position’s, assets and ownership of assets and if they have children or if they plan to have children in the future, when they choose to live together.
Sarah Hubery, an Associate Solicitor and specialist family lawyer at Hethertons Solicitors, said: “Some age-old myths persist about cohabitation and the laws around living together must be dispelled. Client’s still enquire about the rules of common law marriage, but no such status exists. Unlike married couples, there are no legal rights for partners in a cohabitation situation.
“For example, if a property is owned by only one person, the other ‘occupier’ has no legal rights to the property financially, even if they have lived in that home most their adult life and contributed to the same.”
Sarah said that this is not something that often happens intentionally, however, “if they expect to have a financial interest in a property they do not own, many people are left disappointed and, in some cases, destitute”.
“This is the opposite of where parties marry or have a civil partnership. For example, cohabiting couples are not automatically entitled to the other’s pension, there are limited circumstances in which a property in a sole name of a party can be claimed by the other party and there is no ‘cohabitee maintenance ‘for financial support.”
The family team at Hethertons believes that there should be better protection and financial remedies available for couples who have been in a committed and enduring relationship under the law, but while couples wait for the Government to act and legislate, they must arrange their affairs so all parties are protected.
“There are actions that a couple can already take to protect their assets such as a cohabitation agreement. This document should include details about property ownership, children; how bills, bank accounts, income, pensions and debts are shared and what would happen to items bought together if they decide to part,” said Sarah.
Sarah also said that “cohabiting couples should prepare a will and where the property is purchased together, consider holding it as either joint tenants or tenants in common depending on their circumstances. With little prospect of legislative change in the short-term, it is important that couples take steps now to protect their interests”.
To find out how Hethertons Solicitors can help you with a cohabitation agreement or drafting a will, please contact Sarah by calling 01904 528391 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org