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Concept of “common law partner” not recognised in English law

Family lawyers from Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth say figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing a rise in the number of co-habiting couples highlights the need for couple who live together to set up a co-habiting agreement.

The ONS figures show that in 2002 people who were “cohabiting: never married or civil partnered” represented 6.8% of the population. This had increased to 9.5% by 2015.

Alison Hawes, family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said:

“There has been a significant rise in the number of co-habiting people over the past 15 years.  Many people wrongly believe that couples who live together have the same rights as married couples – but this is a myth. There is no such thing in English law as a common law partner.

 “Unmarried couples who split up face issues that can be more complicated than a divorce when children and property are involved. People who live together do not have the same rights as people who are married or have a civil partnership, and many of our clients are astounded when they realise that they have few legal rights when a relationship breaks up. We have seen examples where people are literally left out in the cold because they have been evicted from a house that they shared with a partner for many years.

“The law has not kept pace with people’s changing lifestyles and needs reform. However, the only way for couples to protect themselves and their assets in the event of a split is to prepare a co-habitation agreement.  It is similar to a pre-nup agreement and enables both parties to state clearly how they want their assets divided in the event that their relationship ends.”

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