What Is Common Law Marriage UK: Is Common Law Marriage a Myth?
In short, yes. There is a common misconception that common-law marriage exists. It is generally assumed that cohabiting couples have the same legal rights as married couples or those who have entered into a Civil Partnership which is not true.
Many couples assume that they have the same legal rights as married couples because they have lived together for a long period of time or have had children together, but this is not the case. When a partner dies or a relationship ends, many people find themselves in challenging financial positions, particularly when there is property involved.
Legal Rights As A Spouse
There are plenty of misconceptions about whether a common-law ‘spouse’ is entitled to a share of property, or assets upon the breakdown of a relationship. Your legal rights as a partner depend on whether you are living together or are married.
It is easy to understand why couples who have been together for a long time, share a house, and have children together think they would have similar rights to those who are married. The term 'common-law spouse' is often used, but it is not a legal term. Unmarried couples often face difficulties when separating and some common complications that arise from the separation of an unmarried couple often include:
- Claiming a share of a family home where it is held in the sole name of the other. This is one of the biggest difficulties unmarried couples face.
- If you have children with your ex-partner, only the person who holds parental responsibility can legally make decisions about the child's upbringing. If you are an unmarried father, you could expect complications regarding parental rights. Although this is not the case for many families, unmarried fathers tend to face more challenges than mothers.
- If you and your ex-partner shared a bank account in the past, it could be difficult to prove that you have any rights to access it. It could be challenging for you to claim your rights if one of you did not use the bank account at all or barely paid any money into the account.
Are Unmarried couples Entitled to Anything If Their Partner Dies?
If you are not married or in a civil partnership, the chances of you being entitled to anything after your partner passes away can be slim. Unless they have made a Will, it will be difficult for you to prove that you are entitled to their assets or property unless the property is owned by you both as Joint Tenants.
If you wish to claim inheritance after your partner dies, you would need to make a claim against their estate. This involves negotiations with your partner’s family and can often result in costly and drawn-out court proceedings.
You will not be entitled to any state bereavement benefits based on your partner's national insurance contributions. This remains the case even for those who stayed at home to care for children and depended on their partner's income.
A cohabitation agreement allows unmarried couples to formalise the legal aspects of their relationship by drawing up a legal document together. Couples who live together tend to do this, as they share a property and could both be contributing money towards it.
Drawing up a cohabitation agreement outlines the rights of each partner, and these agreements are legally binding. It is sensible to sign a cohabitation agreement, as it protects your possessions and assets if you do not plan to marry your partner in the near future. Unmarried couples are also advised to write a will in case one partner dies.
How Bell Lamb & Joynson Can Help
Bell Lamb & Joynson was first established in 1821. Our team of highly trained solicitors remains on hand at all times to ensure clients receive the best possible service.
As an award-winning company, Bell Lamb & Joynson has over 200 years' worth of experience and knowledge. We assist clients with legal matters and maintain a professional and helpful approach during our time working together.
Our cost-effective services have helped individuals across the North West for numerous years. The dedication and ambition that the Bell Lamb & Joynson team puts into their work does not go unnoticed – we are friendly and hard-working, building close-knit relationships with clients to ensure their needs are being met at all times.
We understand how important family is. When times get tough and you need legal advice or a listening ear, do not hesitate to reach out to one of our trusted family law solicitors for support. We can help with an array of issues, including separation, civil partnerships, or co-parenting, to name a few.
In addition to providing top-quality family law advice and services, we also cover Wills and Probate. When it comes to planning for the future, we’ll be by your side. Making a Will is incredibly important, especially if you have no intention of getting married to your partner but still want to provide financial security after your death.
For more information, contact us today by calling 03444 124348. We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.