Unmarried couples: A fair deal?

ONS figures published last week show that couples who live together without getting married are the fastest growing type of family in the country.

In light of the news earlier this year that more unmarried couples with children are breaking up than their married counterparts, it is important to remember that cohabiting couples in England and Wales also have very different legal rights on separation.

Despite 75% of unmarried couples indicating in a recent survey that they felt they should have the same legal rights as married ones, there is currently little protection in law to safeguard each party’s interests. Although there are some legal solutions like cohabitation agreements, which allow both parties to determine what will happen if the relationship breaks down, very few of those surveyed were found to have known about their options, which is particularly concerning  in light of the increase in the number of unmarried couple families (now around 3.3 million, or 17.5% of families overall).

Family lawyers have campaigned for many years to ensure that people understand that there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’ and the Law Commission recommended a change in the law as long ago as 2007.

Although the Cohabitation Rights Bill has been introduced in order to alleviate some of the perceived inadequacies of the current law, it is only in the initial phase of being considered by Parliament; only time will tell as to whether it will do enough to safeguard unmarried couple families in the event of separation.

At Slater Heelis we are focused entirely on achieving the best outcome for you—and our experience and level of commitment is second-to-none. Several of our family solicitors are ranked as leading individuals and recommended lawyers in the authoritative UK legal directories (Legal 500 and Chambers) and all of our family solicitors adhere to the Resolution Code of Practice, which means that they will work with you to resolve your case in a constructive and non-confrontational way. 

To get in touch, just call 0161 969 3131 or email a member of the team