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Have cohabiting couples got the same rights as married couples?

There is a common misconception in the UK that co-habiting couples, who are sometimes incorrectly referred to as common law husbands or common law wives, have the same rights as a married couple do, especially if they have lived together for a number of years.
In fact, not many legal rights are given to a couple unless they are married or are in a civil partnership. This means that if you are a co-habiting couple, there are a number of situations, which could arise and may have serious consequences for you and your partner.
The first is if you have children together. Parental responsibility is always given to the mother of the child, but an unmarried father does not automatically get parental responsibility, unless he registered as father at the time of registration of the birth. There are a number of other routes you can take to get parental responsibility including, entering into a Parental Responsibility (PR) agreement if the mother agrees, applying to the court or if the couple do get married.
If one of you dies suddenly without a will, this could mean serious financial hardship for the other person who would have no automatic right to inherit. The remaining partner could be evicted from their house, if it was owned by the deceased partner, and all of their partner’s estate would go to the nearest blood relative, regardless of the length and commitment of their relationship.
Whilst no one is suggesting that you should get married so that the legal side of your relationship is less complicated, there are steps you can take to simplify the legalities.
You should consider drawing up a living together agreement. This is a document that identifies how you own and share your belongings together and will protect you both if you split. A will can also help to protect your partner if you do not wish to get married, but you want them to inherit from your estate.
Whatever you decide to do, you should be clear that your rights as a co-habiting couple are not the same as those of a married couple. Speak to a family lawyer to discuss your options. Call 01302 320621.

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