Thousands of unmarried couples in London are at risk of losing everything if their relationship breaks down
There are about 7 million people in the UK living in an unmarried, cohabiting relationship making this the fastest growing family type in the country. In London alone there are over 400,000 couples currently living together who are unmarried.
It remains the case that many unmarried couples who we work with are unaware of the significant difference in rights that exist compared to couples who are married. Many people mistakenly believe that they acquire “common law” rights after living with their partner for a certain amount of time or after having children together.
The reality is that unmarried couples have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other if their relationship breaks down. We regularly meet with people who have been affected in this way, and because of the lack of legal protection, there are times when what we can do for them is limited.
In an extreme case you may have been living with your partner for over 30 years, given up work to raise your children who have now flown the nest and find yourself with no right to remain living in your home, no income and no pension provision.
This is why this is an area of the law that urgently needs to be reviewed. 27th November to 1st December is Resolution’s national Cohabitation Awareness Week. Our solicitors are members of Resolution who campaign for a fairer family justice system and we know from the people that we work with that this is an area that is ripe for reform.
However, all is not lost…
How you can protect yourself
- Firstly, and most importantly, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS and seek legal advice. At Aletta Shaw Blackheath we support Resolution’s aims and we are holding a free advice week from 27th November to 1st December to enable individuals to receive advice and information on a whole range of legal issues, including cohabitation.
- If you are thinking about moving in with your partner, document your intentions from the start. Put yourself in a place of security regarding finances and property by drawing up an agreement with your partner. Taking these steps will protect both partners if you do later separate. By setting out your intentions in these documents, you will be in a much better situation if the unexpected happens.
- If you are already living with a partner it is not too late to document your intentions. Such an agreement can be drawn up at any time.
- Consider taking out life insurance and making or reviewing a Will.
- If you are having difficulties in your relationship take legal advice. You will then be informed about the law as it affects your family and will be much better placed to consider your options.
- Spread the word. Inform people you know who are in this situation so they can take steps to protect themselves.