In the UK, the number of cohabiting couples with children has increased by 34% during the past decade, and is now in line with the percentage of married couples with dependent children.
The Myth of the “Common Law Spouse”
If a couple splits up, the legal rights of married parents and those in civil partnerships differ significantly to those of cohabiting couples. The term “common law spouse” isn’t recognised by the courts, even though many people still believe it exists.
Unlike married partners or civil partnerships, a cohabiting couple will not automatically be entitled to a financial settlement if they split up. If, for example, one of them leaves the relationship, then without the required legal agreements in place, the other partner could find themselves financially exposed.
Cohabiting Couples More Likely to Split Up?
It’s only natural that when you first move in together you will be excited. In all likelihood the last thing you will want to think about is the possibility that you might separate further down the line. However, a study by the Office for National Statistics which focused on a 750,000 couples over a 10 year period, showed that cohabiting couples were twice as likely to split up as those who were married.
Safeguard Your Rights . . .
Perhaps you can’t imagine a time when you might not be happily communicating with your partner, but unfortunately some break-ups do become acrimonious.
For any couple who chooses to live together, it can be a sound idea to consider putting a “cohabitation agreement” in place (sometimes called a “living together agreement”) while the relationship is on a strong footing. Knowing that your rights will be protected should the worst happen can be reassuring, particularly when you have a child, or children to consider.