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Cohabiting Couples Urged To Learn About Their Rights

December 2nd, 2017

Cohabiting couples could be putting themselves in serious financial risk because they don’t fully understand the law, Resolution has revealed.

The organisation highlighted the results of a ComRes survey, which found that two-thirds of those who are in cohabiting relationships did not know that legally there is no such thing as a “common-law marriage” in the UK.

This means that cohabiting couples don’t have any of the same rights as married couples. As a result, they can’t make a claim on their partner for financial support should they split up, even if they have lived together for decades.

What’s more, 80 per cent of those in cohabiting relationships believe that it’s unclear what their legal rights are should they split up, while 79 per cent of the public stated that they feel there should be greater legal protection for those in cohabiting relationships.

Nigel Shepherd, Resolution chair, said that it’s time for UK law to change because it is “falling desperately behind the times”.

He explained that because people don’t understand their lack of rights, they are failing to take steps to protect themselves in the event that a relationship breaks down.

Given that there are 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, this means that a considerable number of people are currently unaware that they don’t have an automatic right to make a claim on things like the property they live in should they split up.

Mr Shepherd added: “In many cases, this lack of protection affects women more than men, as they are still more likely to have taken time off work to raise children.”

Seeking advice from solicitors in Buckinghamshire, or wherever you live, may therefore be sensible if you are cohabiting and not married – even if you are confident in the strength of your relationship. It never hurts to be prepared, and you may also want to look at the arrangements you have in place in the event that one of you dies.

Yvonne, who had five children with her partner of 17 years, is just one person who has suffered after the breakdown of the relationship. She told Resolution that when they separated, she discovered she wasn’t “legally entitled to share in any of what I thought were our joint assets”.

As a result, she will have to move out of the family home when her youngest child leaves university, even though she has no independent funds or pension.

“I’m devastated to have been left in this situation, and I think it’s wrong that the law is unable to provide people like me with any support whatsoever,” she stated.

Stories like Yvonne’s aren’t uncommon and are the reason why many in the legal industry in the UK are calling for the law to change to provide greater protection for cohabiting couples.

One woman recently won what’s being described as a “landmark legal battle” over bereavement damages after her partner of 16 years died due to negligence at a hospital where he underwent a procedure to remove a benign tumour from his foot.

The Guardian reported that Jakki Smith successfully challenged a high court ruling that had previously dismissed her claim. She said: “My fight has never been for the money – it’s about having meaningful relationships recognised.”


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