COMMON LAW HUSBAND & WIFE - THINK AGAIN!19th Apr 2012
Currently there are at least 1 in 6 cohabiting in the UK and this is set to rise to 1 in 4 by 2031. Many of these cohabiting couples believe they have rights as "Common Law" husband or wife when in reality they have no financial rights.
Simply by living together, even if you have lived together for many years and have children together, the current law does not provide either party with any financial rights, whilst most couples who live together believe wrongly that they are entitled to a share of the assets when the relationship breaks down.
At present, couples who live together have very little legal protection under current law, what protection there is relies on the law of property, trust and contract which is both unclear and complicated leading to protracted and expensive disputes.
Despite recommendations to alter the existing law made by the Law Commission in 2007 there are still no plans to change the existing law leaving couples facing uncertainty and insecurity at the end of their relationship.
To provide certainty Emma Hamilton Cole, Partner at Coles Miller Solicitors suggests that couples enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This would set out in detail the couple's own agreement as to what should happen with their assets in the event that the relationship breaks down. A Cohabitation Agreement is suitable for both hetrosexual and same sex couples.
Emma also recommends that cohabiting couples make a Will as a surviving partner will not inherit if their partner dies as assets owned in the sole name of the deceased will pass to their next of kin and not to their surviving partner as the surviving partner is not considered under English law to be next of kin.