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FAMILY LAWYER SOUNDS ALERT OVER ‘COMMON LAW MARRIAGE’ MYTH

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Date: 27/09/2017

Co-habiting couples across Worcestershire are being warned there is no such thing as a “common law marriage” and they do not have the same rights as married couples if they split up.

The alert comes from Rupinder Nandra, a family lawyer and associate from mfg Solicitors, who is concerned by research showing too many couples have no feasible plan in place to protect their assets. She says couples need to sit down and draft a properly legally binding cohabitation agreement.
 
According to the Office for National Statistics, about one in six families in the UK are unmarried and the number has more than doubled in the past 20 years, from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2016.
 
Ms Nandra said: “Whether couples are married or not, people who fall in love never like to think about what happens if they fall out of love. Cohabiting couples make the same commitments as married people do, whether it’s buying a house together or having children. However, if those relationships break down, too many couples think they have the same rights as married couples. The harsh reality is they don’t.”
 
“There is no such thing as a common law marriage,” she added.
 
Ms Nandra said some business have started offering customers a mock contract which breaks down what would happen to consumer goods in the event that a cohabiting couple or flatmates decide to go their separate ways in the future.
 
However, she added: “It’s a novel idea but it’s unlikely to be the solution in the heat of an argument, nor will it carry much weight if things go to court.
 
“The solution is a legally-recognised cohabitation agreement. It stipulates clearly how all the couple’s assets are divided. My advice is to get it done early, with proper legal advice, and then review the document at pre-agreed times so that it can be adapted in light of any significant change in circumstances.
 
“It’s just better to be safe than sorry. Couples who do this at the start of their lives together are, in my experience, more likely to stay together anyway because they’re thoughtful enough about wanting to be fair to each other.”
 
For assistance and advice on cohabitation agreements call mfg Solicitors on 0845 55 55 321.