Debunking the myth of common-law marriage is essential to protect cohabitating couples.
Couples who are cohabitating are being urged by Advanced Family Law specialist Julie Nicholson of Alderson Law LLP to seek legal advice as they are not protected under common-law marriage.
There is a public misconception that common-law marriage will protect the rights of cohabitating couples should a partner die or one partner choose to end the relationship. To many it will come as a shock to learn common-law marriage does not exist in England and Wales, leaving the 3.3 million couples who cohabit exposed to extreme financial uncertainty.
A recent study conducted by Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers, found that of the 2,000 British cohabitating couples, over 60% did not know common-law marriage was a myth! The study highlights the misconceptions surrounding common-law marriage as 80% of those surveyed did not understand the legal rights or processes for couples who end their relationships.
Julie Nicholson, who heads up the family law department of Alderson Law LLP’s Whitley Bay office, said “Cohabitating couples who do not know their legal rights risk leaving themselves open to serious financial miscarriages. If one partner has given up their working career to raise a child or to fulfil a domestic role and the relationship breaks down without extra legal documents in place they will not receive financial recognition for their role.”
In addition, Julie has called for the laws in England and Wales to be changed to recognise the rights of those cohabitating. She draws upon evidence from other countries who have already implemented successful laws protecting cohabitating couples to further her cause, “In France, couples have the opportunity to legally enter a PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) agreement which offers couples the same legal rights as married couples without obtaining a marriage certificate. In 2016, for every five marriages in France there were four PACS and there have been over 1.3 million PACS entered since its conception in 1999. I believe this is something the UK Government should be looking closely at and following suit, as there is the potential for 1.65 million people to be left exposed with no say or financial security.”
It is not just Julie who feels this way, with family law solicitors across the country calling for the government to make changes to the law. At present, The Cohabitation Rights Bill 2017-19 has only received one hearing in the House of Lords, in July 2017, and there has been no date set for the second hearing. On this matter Julie said, “I welcome the discussion of The Cohabitation Rights Bill taking place in government, but it is long overdue and still far from being passed. Until this legislation is passed, cohabitating couples must actively seek the highest level of protection currently possible; a Cohabitation Agreement.”
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement gives couples the opportunity to set out which items, proportions of property and money belongs to each of them should death occur or a relationship breakdown. It protects both heterosexual and same-sex couples and ensures that the financial wellbeing of any children is also covered. The cohabitation agreement is not limited in scope to the above list of property and possessions, it can also factor in how mortgages, bills, debts, bank accounts and family purchases are all dealt with following the termination of a relationship.
Julie added, “There’s been a spike in the number of cohabiting couples who visit me to discuss their legal options, both when planning a future together or when a relationship has come to an end. More couples want to know that their rights around property, money and possessions are protected without having to enter into a marriage. Thankfully we have a system in place, with a Cohabitation Agreement, to offer those legally binding protections and to give everyone involved peace of mind.”
If you have questions about your own situation having read this article please call Julie Nicholson on 0191 253 3509 to book an appointment.
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For immediate general release.
Photograph caption; Julie Nicholson, Advanced Family Law Panel Solicitor at Alderson Law LLP Solicitors.
Alderson Law LLP Solicitors is currently the largest law firm in Northumberland founded in 2013 from the merger of Alderson Dodds and Wholley Goodings, adding Hipkin & Co in 2015.
They have 6 partners and around 50 staff across 3 offices in Morpeth, Whitley Bay and Blyth from where they serve clients across the North East.
They provide a wide range of legal services from experienced lawyers to a growing client base and their commitment to providing a quality service is demonstrated by their LEXCEL Legal Practice Quality Mark.
Areas of expertise include: family law; residential property; wills & probate; estate planning; personal injury; crime & prison law; business & commercial advice; civil & commercial litigation; employment; commercial property; landlord & tenant; licensing; debt recovery; and charities & not for profit organisations.
Please visit www.aldersonlaw.co.uk.
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