Cohabitees to get legal rights?

Year Published: 2011

Is it possible that the “Common Law Marriage” myth could be about to come true?

For many years, thanks to newspapers and soap operas the public has believed that there was such a thing as a common law marriage. It was a fairly well held belief that if you cohabited for a few years or more you were entitled to make claims against property, income etc. The truth was in fact far from this. With the exception of jointly held property, a cohabitee had no legal rights whatsoever unless he or she could prove that they had contributed to property in a rather expensive court battle.

For many years lawyers have argued that the situation should change but despite the Law Commission recommending a change in 2007, there has never been any sign that the government would consider such rights. The argument usually put forward by traditionalists was that it would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

Now though, the president of the Family Division Mr Justice Wall has come out in favour of changing the law to provide better for the (mostly) women who lose out. Whether the government acts on this remains to be seen but as there are 2 million couples now living together in England and Wales and 1 in 6 couples do not marry, a large part of the population could benefit.

Watch this space for further developments…

For further information please contact a member of our Private Client team on 01625 442100.

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