Momentum for a change in the law affecting unmarried couples has gathered pace in recent years, reflecting the status of unmarried couples as the fastest growing relationship type in England and Wales, which has doubled in the last 20 years. Unmarried couples living up and down the land appear to be widely unaware that they are at risk of financial difficulty upon separation, as a result of the current legal system.
Resolution has highlighted the results of their recent poll of over 2000 adults, marking Cohabitation Awareness Week 2017. The poll results highlighted the wide misunderstanding that unmarried couples have legal rights akin to married couples. The poll found that 27% of the population wrongly believe that, after living together for more than two years, unmarried couples have similar rights to married couples if they break up. Furthermore, 37% wrongly think it is true that unmarried couples who have lived together for more than two years benefit from what is known as a ‘common law marriage’.
84% of those surveyed agreed that the government should take steps to ensure unmarried, cohabiting couples are made aware they do not have the same legal protection as married couples if they were to separate, or if one of them should die, in the future.
Resolution chair Nigel Shepherd says the law needs to change, as the poll results show it “is falling desperately behind the times”.
“[The] poll shows that many still believe in the myth that they will get financial rights through ‘common-law marriage’. This means millions of cohabiting couples are unaware that they don’t have automatic claims, for example on the property they live in, if they split up. This makes it less likely they’ll take steps to protect themselves. In many cases, this lack of protection affects women more than men, as they are still more likely to have taken time off work to raise children. The Government must listen to the public, legal professionals and a growing number of politicians who all agree that we need reform to provide basic rights to cohabiting couples should they separate. Society has changed – it’s time for our laws to catch up.“
Serving Bedford and the surrounding villages, together with our office in central London, the lawyers at Hunter and Uro Solicitors can help you with any separation and family law matters. If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors to discuss your case, contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777.