I Live with my Partner but we are Not Married. What are my Rights?
The latest available stats from the Office of National Statistics shows that the population of cohabiting couples in the UK is growing; in 2020 13.1% of the population aged 16 years and over were cohabiting, compared with 11.3% in 2010. The data also shows that the number of cohabiting couple families is growing faster than married couple families, up 25.8% over the decade. With the rise in couples choosing to live together but not entering into a marriage or civil partnerships set to continue, what does this mean for cohabiting couples’ rights?
Cohabiting? What are your Rights?
As the law stands in the UK, unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. This includes an absence of maintenance rights, rights to their partner’s pension, and automatic inheritance; unless, of course, you have made a will. Despite the common misconception, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ wife or husband; unmarried couples do not actually have any legal rights at all, regardless of how long they have been together.
Is a Legal Reform Likely?
As we detailed in a previous blog post, the Government is under increasing pressure to improve legal protections for unmarried couples by introducing a scheme proposed by the Law Commission 15 years ago. In a report published in early August 2022, the Committee said the proposed scheme offered a ‘pragmatic approach’ for reforming cohabitation law. The scheme would protect economically vulnerable eligible cohabitants, as well as preserve individual autonomy and provide a distinction with marriage and civil partnership.
It would also outline who qualifies as a cohabitant, as there’s no actual legal definition of a cohabitee in England and Wales. The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee is now pushing for the Government to publish draft legislation for scrutiny in the 2023-24 Parliamentary Session.
How can I Protect Myself in the Meantime?
If you have chosen to cohabit with your partner without getting married, there are still ways in which you can protect yourself in the event of a separation. A Cohabitation Agreement is often the most sensible solution in this situation, which can be drawn up to cover the financial aspects of your relationship whilst you live together. It is a legal document, therefore needs to be drawn up by a solicitor, but taking the time to complete one can save huge amounts of money on litigation fees should a separation occur in the future.
If you are cohabiting, or thinking of cohabiting, and do not have such an agreement in place, it may be time to seek advice on how to protect yourself in the event of a separation. A Cohabitation Agreement will offer you the legal protection you would need should the worst happen, and can save an awful lot of time, money, and stress, in the long term.
As experts in Cohabitation Agreements, Vines Legal can provide expert advice and expertise on the matter. For a free initial consultation with our specialist family lawyers, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01246 555610.
By Vines Legal on 28 Sep 2022, 12:42 PM