are you a common law wife?It is a widely held belief among women that if they are cohabiting but not married that they will have the same rights as a spouse should they and their partner later separate. However, this is a myth. I’m going to say that again just to make sure you heard correctly: this is a myth.

There is in law no such thing as a “common law wife”. This is the case even when you have had children together, and regardless of the period of time you have been cohabiting.

Women living in their partners home are most at risk. If a woman lives in her partner’s home, brings up children and contributes to the household expenses, she is entitled to a share of the family assets if they are married. This could also include maintenance payments. However, if the couple are not married, under law she is entitled to nothing. Zip, nada!

To protect yourself you should have a Cohabitation (living together) agreement. This is designed to protect both you and your partner if things go wrong in your relationship at a later date.

The agreement outlines the rights and obligations you have towards each other. Although a cohabitation agreement may be difficult to enforce legally, it will act as a useful reminder of your original intentions if you were later to separate.

Ideally you would make this agreement when you first move in together. But if you haven’t done it yet get it in place as soon as possible.

The agreement will cover for example, how you will deal with property in the event that your relationship breaks down. It can take into account that one partner may be putting more money in to the property than the other, and therefore, on a subsequent sale the proceeds will not necessarily be split equally.

The same is equally true for same sex couples. If you have not been through a  civil partnership ceremony, consider a co-habitation agreement.

If you need help with this I can recommend a specialist solicitor to you. Contact me on [email protected] if you need advice as to who to speak to.

 photo credit: Flickr/Mr Negative