Co-Habiting couples have financial risks

Marlborough Law support Resolutions comments on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on co-habiting couples.

As 1 in 8 couples are now cohabiting in the UK it is vital that couples and children are protected.

Millions of unmarried couples living together are unaware that they are at severe financial risk as a result of the current legal system, national family justice organisation Resolution has warned.

As the fastest growing family type in the UK, the number of unmarried couples living together – or cohabiting – has more than doubled from 1.5m in 1996 to 3.3m in 2017. However, a new ComRes poll reveals a significant lack of understanding about the rights available to these couples should their relationship end.

The poll of over 2,000 British adults was commissioned by Resolution, which represents 6,500 family practitioners and campaigns for a fairer family justice system. It comes at the start of Cohabitation Awareness Week, which seeks to highlight the lack of legal protection available to cohabiting couples.

The ComRes poll found that:

  • Two-thirds of people in cohabiting relationships are unaware that there is no such as thing as ‘common-law marriage’ in this country;
  • Four in five cohabitants agree that the legal rights of cohabiting couples who separate are unclear;
  • Seventy-nine per cent of the public agree that there is a need for greater legal protection for unmarried couples upon separation;
  • Eighty-four per cent of the public agree that the Government should take steps to ensure unmarried cohabiting couples are aware that they don’t have the same legal protection as married couples.

Under current law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner if the relationship breaks down.

This call for reform to extend rights to cohabiting couples is backed by a number of influential individuals and organisations, including Lord Hope of Craighead (former Deputy President of the Supreme Court), Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, the Law Society, Relate, OnePlusOne and the Family Law Bar Association.

Until the law is updated, Resolution is urging anyone in a cohabiting relationship to take steps to protect themselves. These steps could include drawing up a cohabitation agreement which sets out intentions for finances, property and care of any children if the relationship breaks down. They also advise couples to consider taking out life insurance, and drawing up a will.

“The most important thing is to be aware that you might not have the automatic rights you think you have,” added Mr Shepherd. “Look at the information out there, know your rights, and get yourself protected.”