The legal effect of marriage is vitally important. A marriage grants to both parties certain rights in property previously owned solely by one party or the other. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which governs property disputes between married couples who are seeking a divorce, sets out numerous factors to be used by a judge to assess a division of assets. There is no principle or concept in the common law of England and Wales known as a "common law marriage." One is either married, by following the steps set out by statute, or one is not. If no marriage subsists, the parties are living together as a couple (or "cohabiting"), and there can be no application under the MCA 1973.
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