Groups rally together to dispel common law marriage myth


A coalition of legal organisations and legal charities have joined together to urge the Government to update the outdated legislation relating to cohabiting couples and the myth of “common law” marriage.

On 18th August 2018, the busiest day for marriages in the UK this year, these organisations have collectively written to the Government urging a change in legislation in relation to cohabiting couples. In the UK, the number of couples deciding to get married is declining each year and, at present, one in eight adults in the UK are instead cohabiting. Many would argue that the legislation in relation to cohabiting couples is completely inadequate and the Government’s failure to introduce legislation to recognise this societal shift is alarming.

A staggering amount of couples believe that they are afforded the same legal and financial rights as married couples by virtue of their “common law marriage” which unfortunately does not exist. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides married couples with a wide range of legal rights and protections in the event that the marriage breaks down. Cohabiting couples however have no such rights or protections upon the breakdown of their relationship, despite its duration. The economic vulnerability of cohabiting couples is therefore cause for concern that needs to be addressed.

Further, the number of “deathbed marriages” as a result of this has significantly increased in recent years. Legal organisation Solicitors for the Elderly have raised concerns regarding this issue and acknowledge the lack of awareness cohabitees have in relation to their legal rights particularly upon their death. Given the emotional difficulty involved at such a time, changing the law and offering cohabitants the same protections, amongst other legal rights, is much needed and the Government is coming under increasing pressure to do so.


If you are currently cohabitating and would like to discuss your options relating to a legal agreement with your partner, please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right.The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of August 2018.


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