The Myth of the Common Law Marriage

Statistics show that property prices have leapt 11.7% this year across the country, with rental prices following close behind.

As a result, more couples are making the decision to pool their resources and move in together to increase their buying power. This is great! But what many cohabiting couples don’t realise is that they have very little legal or financial protection relating to their property if the relationship breaks down.

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Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples, no matter how long they have been together. The terms “common-law” and “de-facto partner” don’t exist in the eyes of English law, no matter how long the relationship. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the rights of unmarried couples that live together – people think they have rights that in fact don’t exist in current law.

The Myth of the Common Law MarriageIf an unmarried couple living together split up and the property is in one person’s name, the first step is to work out whether the other person has an interest in the property – for example, by paying towards the mortgage, helping with repairs or even having contributed to the deposit. However, if these contributions are not reflected within a written agreement setting out the respective shares of the property, the partner who is not named on the title deed may find themselves struggling to establish the extent of their share if they separate and, in extreme cases, without any rights to the home they have shared with their former partner.

There are ways to avoid this and so, ultimately, unmarried couples need to take extra care and obtain legal advice when purchasing a property to ensure that their arrangements are fair, and legally recognisable.