There is no such thing as “Common Law Marriage”
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “common law” marriage. Many couples are choosing cohabitation rather than marriage, without understanding the consequences of their decision. When a cohabiting relationship breaks down, this can result in financial hardship for the woman if she has had children during the course of the relationship, which has resulted in her losing or decreasing her earnings and if the relationship breaks down at a time when there is no possibility of her being able to rebuild her career. In many cases, the woman has no idea that she is not entitled to any financial support from her ex-partner save for maintenance for the children, and that she has no claim to capital for housing for herself, just to provide accommodation while it is required for minor children. It is, therefore, very important to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement, to avoid injustice and legal costs of litigation resulting from the breakdown of the relationship and the ending of cohabitation.
A Cohabitation Agreement can deal with the parties’ interests in their home and any other property, the arrangements for children, financial arrangements during cohabitation and after termination of cohabitation.
If there is no cohabitation agreement and the relationship breaks down, it can be extremely stressful and expensive, with the Court being asked to make decisions based on which party is believed regarding statements made during the relationship in respect of interests and assets. A Cohabitation Agreement can be a useful aid in prolonging a relationship, because it can avoid there being any misconceptions during the course of the relationship as to the legal consequences and financial arrangements during and after any breakdown in a relationship.
The Law Commission made recommendations in 2007 to reform the law. The Government has failed to act on the recommendations and it seems very unlikely that the law in this area will change in the near future. If you would like advice in connection with the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship or with regard to entering into a Cohabitation Agreement to avoid problems if the relationship ends, please contact our Family Department.
t: 020 7227 7448
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.