Saturday 18th August was the busiest day of the year for weddings, yet marriage numbers are declining. Currently one in eight adults in England and Wales are cohabiting, a trend steadily increasing since 2002.
Society is changing, but sadly the law lags behind. A recent survey showed as many as two in three cohabiting couples were unaware that there is no such thing as “common law marriage” in England and Wales. These couples mistakenly believe they have the same legal and financial rights and protections as married couples.
This misunderstanding can lead to significant problems if the relationship ends, as under current law it is possible to live with someone for decades and simply walk away without taking any responsibility. Most commonly, this can lead to injustices for women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.
As a crucial step towards securing fair outcomes for millions of people, we urge the government to take steps to bring forward, as a minimum, basic protections for cohabiting couples.
In the interim, the government must also raise public awareness of the lack of protections in place and challenge the common law marriage myth. Only by understanding they are at risk can couples take steps to protect their family if they separate or if they are left bereaved.
See the original article at the Guardian online here