Common law marriage - does it exist?

Partner Leesa Clemow is often asked, “Does common law marriage exist?” 

Almost half of people in England and Wales mistakenly believe that unmarried couples who live together have a common law marriage and enjoy the same rights as couples that are legally married.

The first findings from this year’s British Social Attitudes Survey - carried out by The National Centre for Social Research - reveal that 46% of us are under the wrong impression that cohabiting couples form a common law marriage - a figure that remains largely unchanged over the last sixteen years (47% in 2005) despite a significant increase in the number of cohabiting couples. In contrast, only 41% of respondents rightly say cohabiting couples are not in a common law marriage.

Responses to the question, commissioned by the University of Exeter and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, show that people are significantly more likely to believe in common law marriage when children come into the equation; 55% of households with children think that common law marriage exists, whilst only 41% of households without any children do so.

Leesa comments ““The data shows that almost half of us falsely believe that common law marriage exists in England and Wales when, in reality, cohabitation grants no particular legal status to a couple. The result of this is often severe financial hardship for the more vulnerable party in the event of separation”.

If you would like assistance in connection with a family/matrimonial matter, call Leesa on 023 92 210 170 for further information.

Common law marriage - does it exist?

The short answer is “no”

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