Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a common law marriage.  In fact, common law marriage has not had any legal applicability in England since the 16th century.

Despite this, nearly two-thirds of cohabiting couples mistakenly believe that if they live together and are in a relationship for long enough, particularly if they have children, that they will acquire the same rights and protection as married couples.

While cohabiting parents are able to seek financial assistance from each other in respect of maintenance for a child, there is no equivalent provision for the partner on separation.  The ownership of any assets accumulated by the parties will be determined by fairly outdated property law.

To protect yourself if anything should happen (including separation, incapacity and death) you should consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement.  Family lawyers have seen a huge increase in recent years in enquiries from cohabitees who have separated, and agree that many disputes could have easily been avoided through the use of such an agreement.

If you are cohabiting and your partner dies (without having made a Will) you will not inherit anything from them, including your family home, if this is in their sole name or held as tenants in common.

If you have any queries about any of the above, please contact our Family team.

Ali Granville