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Information and advice on divorce & family law

Common law husband and wife – cohabitation myths

Common law husband and wives don’t exist. It is a common question that I get asked because they have heard down the pub from their friend that they are common law husband and wife. In fact, it hasn’t been good law for about 300 years. But it is very important to understand the difference between married and simply cohabiting. Your rights as an individual if you are cohabiting are very different than if you are married. For example, if you live with your partner in their house it is owned solely by them, if you are cohabiting then you don’t necessarily have an interest in their property if you separate whereas if you are married then you do. 

There is also things such as pensions, if you cohabit you don’t have an interest in your partner’s pension whereas if you are married then you do and you can claim a pension sharing order or earmarking order for example. So there are some very, very substantial differences between being married and being unmarried and it is important that when you are going through a separation that you appreciate the difference and get legal advice about how it can impact upon you.

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