The number of unmarried couples living together is now the fast growing ‘family set-up’ in the UK but, despite this, current laws have failed to keep up.
The number of co-habiting couples more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017.
However, the head of Resolution, the umbrella organisation for family lawyers, has claimed that UK legislation is “behind the times” and requires reforms to protect the rights of couples who choose to live together without marrying.
Resolution Chairman, Nigel Shepherd, said: “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.”
Mr Shepherd pointed to a situation where, under current law, it is possible to live with someone for decades and have children together but not take responsibility for the former partner if the relationship breaks down.
However, many co-habiting couples are unaware that their rights are not protected in the event that their relationship breaks down.
A survey, carried out by Resolution, discovered that two-thirds of cohabiting couples wrongly believe “common-law marriage” laws exist when dividing up finances.
Surjit Verdi, an Associate with Palmers, who specialises in Family Law, said: “Contrary to popular belief the law does not recognise ‘common law marriage’ and, in general, you have fewer automatic rights if you live together compared to being married.
“Putting in place a cohabitation agreement, along with an up to date Will and, where property is involved a trust deed, can give both parties certainty and avoid the heartache of expensive litigation should the relationship break down.”
To find out more about cohabitation agreements, please contact us.