common law marriage


Although I have been a family lawyer for many years, it still never fails to surprise me when clients say to me “we are common law husband and wife”. It can often be a shock to learn that that there is no such legal status. No matter how long you have lived with your partner, or even if you have children together, you still do not have the same legal protection in several areas as couples who are married or in a civil partnership.

On the 9 February 2016, the House of Commons Library (which provides impartial research for use by MP’s and staff) produced a fascinating paper called “common law marriage” and cohabitation, providing general information about cohabitation, the number of cohabiting couples and proposals for change.

The research confirms that cohabitation is increasing in popularity, in 1996 1.5 million same sex couples were cohabiting but by 2015 this had increased to 3.1 million. The paper also gives information upon the current law relating to cohabitation in a number of important areas including:

  • Property rights
  • Housing
  • Domestic violence
  • Inheritance
  • Social security
  • Pensions
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Birth registration
  • Parental responsibility

Before anyone decides to live with their partner I would always strongly advise they consider entering into a Cohabitation agreement. A properly drafted agreement can set out the parties’ intentions should the relationship come to an end. Whilst there is no absolute certainty a court will enforce such an agreement in the event of a dispute, it is a starting point in determining the parties’ intentions.

If you are thinking of setting up home with your partner and you would like a confidential chat about this or any aspect of family law please contact Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or