Experienced solicitor, Trudy Hill, works in the Family Department of Brockbank Solicitors in Cumbria, and has dealt with many relationship breakdowns. Here, she clarifies the law regarding common law marriage.

It is the biggest misconception that still exists today.  As I enter my 19th year of giving family advice to separating couples, it is still a common mistake that people make. A poll commissioned by Resolution in 2017 showed that two-thirds of people in a co-habiting relationship were unaware that there is no such thing as common-law marriage in this country.

People still believe that they automatically acquire legal rights upon separation, even if they live together; and they believe that the longer the relationship, the more rights they acquire.  This is simply not true. 

As the current law stands, some individuals find that after a breakdown of the relationship, or the death of their partner, they are not legally entitled to anything, despite perhaps living with someone for decades and even having children together. 

Marriage provides protection to couples under the Matrimonial Causes Act.  However, an unmarried party would potentially have to apply under the Law of Contract, and the process can be complex, lengthy, and costly, both emotionally and financially.

At Brockbanks Solicitors we would encourage any couple currently living together, or thinking of co-habiting, to protect themselves by the following:

  • Entering into a Living Together Agreement/Cohabitation Agreement.
  • Making a will
  • Take advice on how property is owned and how it would be distributed on a separation

    People often shy away from entering into such an agreement, or even having a discussion with their partner, for fear that it is unromantic and may raise doubts for the relationship.  However, perhaps it would be better to view such discussions or documents as a sensible way of setting out clearly your intentions, which would hopefully allow any potential future separation to be civil and respectful, which is particularly important if children are involved.

At Brockbanks our team of experienced, caring, family law specialist lawyers (who include Resolution members and an accredited Resolution Specialist) can advise and assist on all areas of family law.  Free initial appointments for new matters are available at our Whitehaven and Carlisle offices until the end of April 2019.


Telephone: 01946 692194

Email: info@brockbanks.co.uk