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Family Law Myths No.1: The Common Law Spouse

This is one of the most common myths I hear people repeat to me.  It is a mystery as to how it has attained mythical status but let me be clear – there is no such thing!  Ok, so there was such a thing but it was abolished in 1753, getting on for nearly 300 years ago!  Does that mean that the concept has been passed down for all those years through the generations?  Anyway, I digress.

Currently, the simple position is that when a relationship of two people who were not married or in a civil partnership breaks down, the Courts’ powers are limited.  Separated partners can ask the Courts to deal with the regulation of ownership and sale of property on principles of Trust and Property Law.  They can potentially seek financial support from their ex-partner for the benefit of their children pursuant to Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989.  They can apply for Child Arrangements and other Orders from the Courts pursuant to the Children Act 1989.  Unfortunately for separating partners, this is largely the extent of it.  The Courts are not concerned with fairness or the overall picture or maintenance for the benefit of one of the former partners.

However, there has now been talk for many years about reform of the law in this area.  The Law Commission published a report as long ago as in 2007 recommending certain changes to the law as it affects cohabiting couples but until recently this has been side-lined by the Government.

The good news is that a proposed Bill, the Cohabitation Rights Bill, has now started its journey through the Houses and received its first reading in February, although the second reading is yet to be scheduled so if the draft Bill does make its way into law, it isn’t going to be any time soon!

For more information on the issues raised in this blog please do not hesitate to contact one of the team at Rayden Solicitors.

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