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Vines Legal Limited

Matrimonial & Family Law Specialists

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The Difference Between Married & Unmarried Couples

Here at Vines Legal, we speak to many couples on a daily basis. Common questions people ask about are the rights of cohabitees in comparison to the rights of married people. People are often surprised by what the find out..

A recent survey carried out by Resolution showed that two-thirds of cohabiting couples in England and Wales had no idea that there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’.

Also, 75% believed that there should be greater legal protection for unmarried couples upon separation.

Cohabitees have rights, but what are they?

The number of cohabiting, unmarried couples living together has more than doubled in the last 21 years. There were 1.5 million in 1996 and there are now (2017) 3.3 million.

Four in five cohabitants agreed that the legal rights when they separate are unclear and 84% believe that the government should ensure unmarried couples are aware that they do not have the same legal protection as married couples.

Here are some of the examples of how married and unmarried couples differ when separating:


  • If an unmarried couple has not taken the necessary steps to protect their financial positions when purchasing property then one could find themselves excluded from any share of the family home.

  • Unmarried couples who separate do not have a right to have a share in their partner’s income despite the fact that they may not be working or have any ability to work.

  • If a cohabiting partner dies without making a will, their partner will not be entitled to any part of their estate.


If you’re cohabiting and want to take the necessary steps to protect your future position, then call us on 01246 555610 to talk to one of our solicitors and book in for a free consultation.

By Emma Newman on 22 Dec 2017, 10:50 AM

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