What Are My Legal Rights in a Relationship? Some Common Myths
Life gets a great deal busier when we begin a new romantic relationship.
Suddenly, our free time is no longer quite so free, and our hobbies and friends risk falling to the wayside in favour of ‘the new someone’.
Of course, what this also means is that very few of us have time to check up on our legal rights when we enter into a relationship. The trouble is, that often means that we are living under wrongful assumptions and prevailing myths – and, unfortunately, we only tend to learn the truth when it’s too late.
When we decide to move in with a partner, we are actively combining our life with another. The only trouble is that many people still don’t realise quite what this means for their assets and finances.
Read more about your rights in a relationship below.
Understanding the Myth of Common Law Marriage
In spite of efforts to spread awareness about the issue, many people still believe that living together offers the same legal protections to couples as those that apply to people who are married or in a civil partnership. Otherwise known as ‘common law marriage’, the idea that cohabiting automatically entails certain protections has the potential to be quite damaging. The myth encourages a false sense of security in unmarried couples – particularly in those who share children, or in partners who are financially dependent on the other – that, should something go wrong with the relationship, they are not at risk of being abandoned financially.
There remains plenty of hope that laws will be amended to reflect the growing number of committed couples who choose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership, but, at this stage, cohabiting couples are protected by no legal rights other than those created by jointly owned assets.
The perpetuation of the myth means that, each year, countless separations lead to one or both parties experiencing financial difficulties and stress that could otherwise have been avoided.
What is the Solution?
Much like the fact that it is always advisable for couples to work together on creating a prenuptial agreement before marrying, it is recommended that cohabiting couples – even if they have no children, or intention of getting married – speak with a solicitor to create a cohabitation agreement before committing to live together. The legal firm Willans.co.uk explains how, with this, couples can both take pre-emptive steps to ensure that, a breakup would not entail any impossible disputes over who has a right to what property etc.
Of course, sorting out financial arrangements for a potential breakup isn’t the first thing on a couple’s mind when they plan to live together – and discussing thisat a time when you are making a significant commitment to your future life together will never be enjoyable, or easy. But it is important, both for the health of your relationship and your own individual futures, that you both appreciate and understand the ‘gaps’ that exist in the law for cohabiting couples, and take steps to ensure that a lack of financial protection not pose a problem to you should the worst ever happen for you.