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Contrary to popular belief, common law marriage is a myth. There is, in fact, no such legal status in England and Wales.

Cohabitation agreements can in some circumstances, help to provide some security for those in a cohabiting relationship. They can make sense in that they encourage people to think clearly about what they want to happen if the relationship ends.

Where there are problems and there is no agreement in place there needs to be a solution to the differing claims of the parties.

When a couple are married and the relationship ends, matrimonial legislation allows courts to deal with the financial arrangements – property and maintenance. Where a couple have chosen to live together outside marriage (cohabiting), and the relationship ends, there is no legal provision for maintenance. When looking at the division of an unmarried couple’s property, there is no notion of fairness or reasonableness built into the law.

At Jones Myers, we provide advice and assistance for couples who are living together to help ensure that their interests are best served in the event that the relationship ends.

Sometimes property is jointly owned and the deeds are in both partners’ names. If this is not the case, being awarded a share in any property depends, essentially, on being able to establish ownership, either based on a financial contribution or a common intention. For example, if a woman lives with her partner for twenty years and brings up their children in his house, she cannot expect any maintenance for herself. Nor will she share in the property if she has not paid for it either directly or, for example, by making a contribution to the mortgage, unless she can prove it was agreed otherwise. It does not matter that the reason she did not contribute financially was that she could not work because she was at home with the children. Even if she did make some financial contribution, establishing ownership is notoriously difficult as the law in this area is something of a minefield.

At Jones Myers we are ideally placed to help you through these difficulties and are also able to help you decide whether a cohabitation agreement is relevant for you and, if so, how best it should be framed.

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