Louise Walker, family law specialist at Weightmans in Leeds, is campaigning to raise awareness about the rights of cohabiting couples and encourage them to take steps to protect themselves and their families.
The most common day of 2018 on which to tie the knot was widely reported as 18 August, but there has been a steady drop in marriage rates since the 1970s, with a 3.4% fall in 2017 alone, according to Weightmans.
At the same time, the number of cohabiting couples is rising, with 3.3 million recorded in 2016, and a 2017 ComRes survey showed that only one couple in three knew there was no such thing as common law marriage.
The issue is widespread, with nearly 98% of legal professionals from family justice group Resolution reported having worked with a cohabiting couple who they were unable to help. A further 90% said the couples are often surprised to find out about their lack of rights.
Walker (pictured) of Weightmans wants to raise awareness about this issue and encourage cohabiting couples to take action.
Walker said: “If an unmarried couple breaks up, they would not necessarily be entitled to share in (what they thought were their) joint assets, such as a house they may have made significant financial contributions to, if they aren’t named as an owner on the deed. This is the same regardless of how long they have been together or whether they have children.”
“Government has the opportunity to update legislation, to bring our laws in line with modern family types. Caroline Lucas raised an early day motion in November, which has already been supported by 23 cross-party MPs.”
“In the absence of action from government, these couples need to know that they are not given rights through common law marriage, so they can take appropriate actions to protect themselves. For example signing a cohabitation agreement is an easy and cost effective way to get financial peace of mind without getting married or forming a civil partnership.”