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Do common law wives/husbands exist?

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It seems that a day doesn’t go by without someone referring to themselves as a ‘common law wife or husband’. Many unmarried couples live with the assumption that if they have cohabited for a number of years they have similar legal rights to those couples that are married. This is not the case!
Common law wives and husbands do not exist in the legal world. In the event of separation and a dispute over belongings, furniture, the family home and even the pet, Courts will not take into account the length of time the couple have lived together or even if one person has contributed to the household by raising children and being responsible for the running of the family home. 
Couples who are not married do not have the same rights as married couples. It is extremely difficult on separation to bring a claim you feel you may be entitled to. You must be able to prove that you have contributed to the purchase of the house, the furniture or the items you are laying claim to. 
The Courts say that to enable a person who is not married to bring a claim against the family home (unless the property is registered in joint names) then that person must satisfy certain requirements. These include financially contributing to the property, for example, payment of the mortgage or payment of household bills. There are also other ways of bringing a claim against the family home which include paying for home improvements or paying for the deposit for the property. This area of law is extremely complex and assistance should be sought before attempting to bring a claim. For further information please visit the cohabitation disputes section of our website.
People should be extremely careful when moving in together and raising a family. An agreement should be prepared to set out exactly what rights the parties have if the relationship should break down. Without an agreement it is likely that on separation one of the parties may end up with nothing or face a lengthy and complicated legal battle with their ex-partner in order to claim their fair share.

Whatever your current circumstances should you require any further assistance please contact our specialist team on 01616 966 229.
By family executive, Gillian Lavelle