Data from the ONS Families and Households statistical bulletin has highlighted the increasing social shift away from marriage towards cohabitation. Despite these increasing numbers, there is still the misconception that they have rights as a "common law spouse". This is simply not the case.
Cohabitation does not provide an automatic or guaranteed right to ownership of a partner's property.
In some circumstances a former cohabitant may be able to apply for an order on behalf of their children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 but this only provides short term relief.
Until there is legal reform cohabitants need to take a proactive approach to protect them-selves. They should seek advice from a solicitor and consider entering into a cohabitation agreement setting out the ownership of assets and detailing what should happen if the relationship ends.
If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact a member of Dutton Gregory's family team who will be happy to assist.
Alarmingly, a recent poll of over 2,000 British adults commissioned by Resolution to mark Cohabitation Awareness Week revealed that two-thirds of cohabiting couples remain under the misconception that there is “common law spouse” protection for them on relationship breakdown or death enabling certain rights similar to rights available in marriage. This is despite common law marriage not having existed since 1753.