Busting cohabitation myths across 6 jurisdictions
By Teresa Cullen, partner at Fladgate, 19 Apr 18
In the UK, many couples mistakenly believe that they acquire similar rights to a married couple after living with their partner after a fixed period of time has elapsed. In an attempt to bust cohabitation myths, Teresa Cullen, partner at international law firm Fladgate, looks at what rights unmarried couples have in several jurisdictions.
There are approximately seven million people in the UK and over 400,000 in London alone living in a cohabiting relationship (unmarried and not part of a civil partnership).
Many couples mistakenly believe that they acquire “common law” rights after living with their partner, either as soon as they move in or after a fixed period of time has elapsed, or indeed once children arrive.
The sad reality is that unmarried couples in England and Wales have very limited legal rights against each other in the event the relationship breaks down. There is no automatic right for the “common law wife” to receive financial provision for herself, nor is she automatically entitled to a share of the family home.
While children’s rights for financial protection are maintained, the contrast between the rights of a wife as opposed to the mythical “common law wife” are vast – for example no automatic rights under the law of intestacy, which regulates estates where the deceased dies without having left a valid will.
Also, even if a will has been properly prepared, there are, of course, also different, and less attractive, tax consequences when leaving part of an estate to a cohabitant/“common law wife” who would not qualify for the spouse exemption from inheritance tax.
Click through the slides above to see the cohabitation rights of:
- Hong Kong