The highly regarded family team at leading law firm Penningtons Manches is supporting Cohabitation Awareness Week 2017 to highlight the lack of rights that exist for unmarried couples who live together.
Cohabitation Awareness Week 2017 runs from Monday 27 November to Friday 1 December and is led by Resolution, the national organisation of family lawyers who campaign for a fairer family justice system.
The aim of the week is to raise awareness around the common misconceptions about cohabitation and the difficulties cohabiting couples face, particularly in regard to finances and children, if their relationship breaks down.
Partner Jane Craig, head of the Penningtons Manches family team, says: “Many people mistakenly believe that if couples live together for long enough, and especially if they have children, they become ‘common law spouses’ and automatically have legal responsibility to support each other financially and a legal right to share each other’s property. This is a widespread misconception which can sometimes have serious consequences when a couple who have been living together split up.”
She continued: “Parents have financial obligations towards their children, but there are no equivalent responsibilities for a partner; they are not entitled to support even if one has given up work to raise children. This means they could be left without financial security, with no home, and with no access to pensions or savings. Putting in place basic protection such as a cohabitation agreement, a declaration of trust when jointly buying a property, making a will and taking out life insurance can offer protection if the unexpected happens.”
Specialist lawyers at the firm are taking part in a number of activities in support of the awareness raising campaign, including sharing their expertise and insight at dedicated meetings with specialist financial providers and other professionals, and spreading the word through their social media networks.
According to Resolution, cohabiting is becoming more common. There are over three million cohabiting couples in the UK – or one family in five. It is the fastest growing family type. Resolution is campaigning to change the law, but in the meantime is committed to raising awareness of the issues and the precautions couples can take early on to help avoid disputes and potentially costly court battles further down the line.