Does being a common law husband or wife offer the same protection as being married?

Deborah Marsh Deborah Marsh 25 August 2021

Is there such a thing as a common law husband or wife?

A recent online survey for Wake Smith Solicitors asked about the popular phrase and what it meant.

72 per cent of respondents were correct in saying there was no such thing legally and you are not protected as if you were married.

While 14 per cent got it wrong by saying it kicked in after two years and offered protection as if you were married, and the other 14 per cent said they didn’t know.

Wake Smith’s family and collaborative lawyer Deborah Marsh explains the phrase.

Deborah said: “There is no such thing as a common law spouse, regardless of how long you have been together.

“There is a widely held, and incorrect, belief that couples who have cohabited for a long period of time have the same legal rights in family law, if they separate, as couples who are legally married or in a civil partnership.

“If you live with your partner you are cohabitees and the legal principles that apply will depend on your circumstances, such as whether you own property together. Matrimonial law will not apply.

“If you are concerned about what this may mean for you or, you and your partner would like to set out formally what should happen on separation, then there are options available.”

You can protect your assets or your position by entering into a cohabitation agreement and a declaration of trust.

Deborah added: “You can formalise aspects of your status with a partner by drawing up a legal agreement called a cohabitation agreement. This outlines the rights and obligations of each partner towards each other and deals with what happens on separation and how property and assets will be dealt with. You can also make a legal agreement about how you share your property - this is called a declaration of trust.

“If you are thinking about either, you should get help from a family law solicitor.”

For further details please contact family solicitors Lindsey Canning and Deborah Marsh at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 266 6660.



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