Couples - what are your rights?

Thousands of unmarried couples in Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead are at risk of losing everything if their relationship breaks down.

As a family lawyer in the area I regularly work with couples whose relationships have broken down. Increasingly these couples are cohabiting – living together but unmarried. They are the fastest growing family type, with recent figures showing there are over 3.3m cohabiting couples in the UK.

Couples in cohabiting relationships are amongst the most vulnerable in the event of relationship breakdown. Despite the myth, there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage,’ and these couples have little or no legal protection should they separate. Under the current law it’s possible for someone to live with a partner for decades – even to have children together – and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for their partner.

Cohabiting couples need to be aware of their lack of rights, and consider taking measures to protect themselves in case their relationship breaks down. This may include life insurance or making a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement sets out what will happen to finances and property if the worst happens and can help protect both partners if they separate. By setting out intentions in these documents, people will be in a much better situation if the unexpected happens.

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