Family Matters

According to the office for national statistics between 1996 and 2017 the number of opposite sex cohabiting couples with children more than doubled to 1.2 million

The number of married couple families with children in 2017 was around 4.9 million.

There is also recorded around 20,000 same sex married and cohabiting couples with children.

One of the least satisfying parts of my role as a family lawyer is to have to break the news to a cohabitee that there is no such thing as a ‘common law spouse’ in law in England and Wales. Although cohabitants do have legal protection in several areas, they don’t benefit from the many legal rights and responsibilities that flow from marriage or civil partnership

How does this effect you?

Your Home
The family home is the major asset in most relationships. Unmarried couples have no guaranteed rights to ownership of each other’s property on relationship breakdown. It is important that you obtain legal advice to enter into an appropriate contract regulating your relationship and in particular your property rights. A house or other property can be owned in unequal shares to reflect a greater contribution by one party, and the contract can be reviewed as and when circumstances change.

Inheritance
When a couple live together, without marrying or entering into a civil partnership, and one of them dies without leaving a valid will making provision for the other, the survivor has no automatic right under the intestacy rules to inherit any part of his or her partner’s estate.

A surviving cohabitant can make a claim through the Court, against the estate of their deceased partner if no or inadequate provision has been made for them by will or if the intestacy rules don’t help them. But the surviving cohabitant is treated less favourably than a surviving spouse/civil partner. A cohabitant may only seek reasonable provision for their own maintenance and has to satisfy certain rules.

You should consider carefully the position of your loved ones should you die before them and ensure that they are protected, by making a will.

Pensions
Pension legislation allows pension schemes to provide a survivor pension to a person who was not married or a civil partner of the scheme member, but was financially dependent on them. Most pension schemes still require a nomination on a specific form before they will do so.

You should make enquiries with all your pension providers or get our friendly pensions team on the case to help you achieve what you want with your funds for you and your family.

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