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The myth of common law marriage 12/09/2016

More of us than ever are currently co-habiting. According to the Office for National Statistics the figure for those who are living with someone who has never married or civil partnered, is 9.5% in 2015 compared to 6.3% in 2003. There is an increasing trend for those of younger ages to co-habit, as opposed to marry, while many choose the option to co-habit before marriage. This group - co-habiting families - has become the fastest growing family type in the country.

Co-habiting parents in the UK in 2013 according to the Sunday Times account for nearly half of break ups despite this demographic making up just one fifth of those with children. This makes them four times more likely to split than married parents. The chances of breaking up statistically are far more enhanced if you are a parent but not married.

Yet what protection is on offer when it goes wrong, as so many partnerships do?

At present it is possible to co-habit with a partner for a number of years, even having children with that person and then just walking away without any responsibility for that person. With females far more at risk, often having given up their careers or reduced their hours to support the family, there isn't the same support network afforded to this group as their married counterparts receive.

In fact, it is affecting so many members of society at present that Resolution have got involved. They recently said, "These statistics should be regarded by policymakers as a wake-up call that cohabitation is a trend of modern society that is not going to go away. As family lawyers who see the damage caused by the lack of protection for cohabiting couples when they separate, Resolution calls for the urgent introduction of safety net legislation providing legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple's separation, particularly for children and mothers left vulnerable under the existing law."

It's surely time that the law was changed to give all members of society equal rights? With over 40% still believing in common law marriage and the notion that co-habiting couples have the same rights as married ones, too many of us are in a vulnerable situation.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 07977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.

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