Does Common Law Marriage Exist?
Many cohabiting couples assume that living with their partner for a long time provides them with legal rights, similar to that of a spouse, should the relationship come to end.
This can quite as quite a shock to an individual who has no financial protection in place in the event that the relationship ends, or their partner sadly dies with no valid will in place. Unlike in divorce proceedings, there are no specific rules that automatically apply.
An individual would be especially vulnerable if they move into a property owned or rented solely in their partner’s name.
They may assume that if they have lived together for many years, have children together and share the household outgoings they will have rights in regards to the property. But this is not true.
What about in cases with shared children?
Unmarried couples have no financial obligation in relation to the other unless they share children. In which case they would be required to pay Child Maintenance at the applicable rate determined by the Child Maintenance Service. Should your partner ask you to leave a property they hold in their sole name, the law offers little assistance.
Could I be entitled to their pension?
Should your partner suddenly pass away, unless there is a will naming you as a beneficiary, you would have no automatic right to inherit. If it is the case that you are able to prove that you lived together ‘as man and wife’ and were financially dependent on your partner you may be able to make a limited claim on their estate. Such a claim is likely to be stressful and costly.
Whilst some pension companies allow the pension holder to nominate who they wish to benefit in the event of their death, you would not be entitled to state bereavement benefit or any state pension based on your partners’ national insurance contributions.
Is there likely to be reform?
There has been mounting pressure for a reform to the laws surrounding cohabiting couples as the current system offers little protection. We remain hopeful that additional protection will come into force in the future. But until then unmarried couples should be aware of the financial risks of cohabitation.
Cohabitation Agreement; An alternative
One of the most effective ways unmarried couples can gain protection is to formalise aspects of their cohabitation by having a legal agreement drawn up. This document is called a Cohabitation Agreement and its purpose is to clearly outline the parties agreement with regards to division of property in the event of the relationship coming to an end.
Cohabitation Agreements determine who owns what and to what extent. The document can deal with agreements in relation to property, cars, assets, possessions and savings in addition to determining how any joint debts or bank accounts should be dealt with thereby alleviating the stress and cost involved in disputes later down the line.
We can help
Should you require advice on your rights as a cohabitee please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Contact our family team on email@example.com or call 03333 580393