Unmarried Couples: The Top Three Myths Busted!


It is a common misconception amongst unmarried couples that because they have lived together for two, three or even ten years, they have similar legal rights to that of a married couple.

Unfortunately this is a myth; there is no such thing as a common-law marriage in the UK.

In fact, a recent survey showed that 58% of the general public believe in a common-law marriage that gives cohabitees similar rights to husbands and wives. Cohabiting couples do have legal protection in some areas, however in most cases, it’s not until a relationship breaks down that they realise how much legal protection they are without.

We’ve busted three of the top myths associated with unmarried couples and the law surrounding it in England and Wales.

Myth #1 – A cohabiting partner is automatically entitled to their partner’s estate

Unmarried couples do not have automatic entitlement to their partner’s estate, unless they jointly own a property or are named in a valid Will. Only those who are married, in a civil partnership or are a close relative, have the chance to inherit under the rules of intestacy.

Myth #2 – Unmarried fathers automatically obtain parental responsibility

Unless the father is married to the child’s mother, his legal rights may differ. If the child was born after the 1st December 2003 and the mother and father jointly registered the birth, an unmarried father will, in this case, have parental responsibility. If this wasn’t an option when the child was born, the unmarried father may obtain an agreement through the mother or by Court Order.

Myth #3 – Unmarried couples get an automatic share of their partner’s assets if the relationship breaks down

When a married couple decide to get a divorce, the law treats you as equal partners, sharing out assets accordingly. This differs when an unmarried couple decide to separate. By law, neither party is entitled to any maintenance or provision to or from one another. If an unmarried couple who decide to part ways have children, they will still need to pay child maintenance for them.

Cohabitation agreements

Cohabitation agreements outline what will happen should a relationship come to an end. The agreement can give couples more certainty about arrangements concerning any of their assets should they separate. It may not sound very romantic, especially if you are in the early stages of a relationship. However, this agreement provides insurance for your future and can diminish any potential emotional and financial heartache. If you would like to protect your assets and provide security for you and your children, a member of our Family Law Team will be more than happy to assist – contact us today to discuss your circumstances.

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John W Davies Legal Limited is a Company registered in England and Wales with registered number 09901614. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales, registration number 634493. A list of directors and their professional qualifications is open to inspection at the registered office 27 Bridge Street, Newport, NP20 4BG.