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Couples living together without marriage the legal effect

Couples living together without marriage the legal effect of which is not considered could be creating an expensive problem if the relationship was to end. The government has published an advisory paper in 2016 that confirms the legal position of couples living together without marrying as being of no legal status. There is no such thing as common law spouses and no matter how long you live together that will not change as the law stands. What you own will remain yours but sometimes your partner will have made significant contribution based on an implied or oexpressly stated agreement that in return he or she had an interest in the house; this give scope for a legal challenge in court to prove the house is owned under a trust. Cheshire family law specialist Michael Brennan of Northwich solicitors Stonehewer Moss has advised clients about constructive trusts over the twenty plus years of his career and says,” There are two things to note, firstly they are far more expensive than a divorce case because of the standard of law and barrister required combined with greater risks of paying the costs of your partner if you lose and secondly they are less predictable than divorce especially now that prenuptial agreements can be entered before divorce. The government statistics are set out in this blog for the huge increase in cohabitation in a short time, which looks like reaching 50% of couples before this generation of children has grown up. Children are hardest hit by the financial insecurity of separation by cohabiting parents. Laws are available to obtain financial provision for children but you probably need a solicitor to access the law as it is not commonly understood law.”

The government statistics state:-

while the number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has grown, the number of opposite sex married couple families has remained broadly the same, at around 12.5 million. Between 1996 and 2004 the number of opposite sex married couple families fell, from around 12.6 million in 1996 to around 12.2 million. The number remained at roughly this level until 2011 but has increased since then, reaching 12.5 million in 2015.

Since 1996, the number of dependent children living in opposite sex cohabiting couple families has more than doubled, from around 0.9 million in 1996 to around 2.1 million in 2015.10 The number of dependent children in married couple families has fallen from around 9.7 million in 1996 to around 8.6 million in 2015.

Michael remarks, “That is nearly 1 million more children living in households that may offer their main carer no financial protection should they separate. Parents need to understand that the law will not help them in most cases if they have raised children outside of marriage. The Children Act 1989 Schedule is available to them but the court is unlikely to order a father, for example, to sell a house owned solely by him even though it had also been the home of the mother.”

For more information about constructive trusts, schedule 1 claims or the law related to children call 01606 872200 e mail  or visit

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