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Common Law Marriage - Do you actually have any legal rights?

Many couples who live together that are not married wrongly believe they have what is commonly known as a “Common Law Marriage”. However, the reality is that most co-habiting couples have very limited entitlements even if they have lived together with a partner for decades when it comes to separation.

There are a number of ways where married couples versus cohabiting couples differ in terms of legal rights, namely;

If you are in a cohabiting relationship and one party dies without having made a Will the surviving partner will not automatically benefit unless the couple own joint property, however married people do inherit where there is no Will at least part of their deceased spouses estate.

An unmarried party who stays at home to care for the children of the relationship would not have any right to claim for property for themselves, maintenance or pension sharing for themselves unlike in a marriage.

Cohabiting couples are not legally obligated to financially support one another but married couples have duties potentially depending on the extent of their financial circumstances.

If you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you do not have rights to stay in accommodation if you are asked to leave unlike a married person who has the right to live in the matrimonial home.

Cohabiting couples cannot access their partners bank account if their partner dies whereas a married person may be able to withdraw the balance if the balance is small enough.

Many people do not realise that simply living together is not enough to give you the protection of the law and that you may find yourself completely unprotected in the event of a separation.

Your rights to child support are protected in law but it may be sensible to enter into a living together agreement or protect your position by ensuring property is held jointly or that Wills advice is obtained so that you know exactly where you stand.

Clarkson Hirst Solicitors offer specialist advice in this area and would be happy to assist further should you require it.

Contact our Kerry Davies on 01524 39760 or kd@clarksonhirst.com for more information.


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