You may well have heard people talk of “common-law” marriage, or refer to their partner as their common-law husband or wife. Many people believe that couples in a long-term relationship acquire the same rights as those that are married, but it may surprise you to learn that this “common-law marriage” is in fact a myth.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, the law gives you certain legal rights. If you should separate, you can rely on the law when it comes to dividing up your assets. If one of you dies, the law clearly sets out your rights and entitlement. If however you are not married, you have none of this protection. It makes no difference how long you have lived with your partner, or if there are children from your relationship.

If you are living with a partner, you are known as a “cohabitee” and this can have an impact in many areas. For instance, if your partner owns the home you live in and you are asked to leave, you will have no right to stay. Neither are you entitled to a share of your partner’s savings. If you separate, your children would be entitled to maintenance, but you would have no rights yourself.

Worse still would be your position on the death of your partner. If your partner dies without a Will, you have no automatic rights to his or her money or property. If you own your home together as joint tenants then the property will automatically pass to you on your partner’s death, but if you were tenants in common, you have no entitlement to it. You would have the right to apply to the Court for provision from your partner’s estate, but this is by no means certain.

There are simple measures you can put in place now to make sure that you are both protected. A simple cohabitation agreement can stipulate how your money and property will be divided if you split up, and how your children will be cared for. You can review the way in which you own your home. Lastly, by making a simple Will you can make sure your partner is provided for if you should die.

If you would like to talk to us to review your own position please call and arrange a thirty minute free consultation. We can give you peace of mind.