Over 269,000 unmarried couples in the East Midlands are at risk of losing everything if the relationship breaks down
A local family lawyer has called on unmarried couples in the Mansfield and Ashfield areas to take action to protect themselves, as they could be vulnerable if the relationship breaks down. There are a number of ways this can be done ranging from prenuptial agreements to separation agreements.
David Winnett from Hopkins Solicitors made the calls as part of a national Cohabitation Awareness Week that is being led by Resolution, who campaign for a fairer family justice system.
Cohabitation Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the lack of rights that exist for unmarried couples who live together.
There are about 7 million people in the UK living in this type of relationship, making this the fastest growing family type in the country, currently this accounts for 17% of all families.
Mr Winnett explained that most couples he worked with mistakenly believe that they acquire “common law” rights after living with their partner for a certain amount of time or having children together.
The reality is that this is a myth, under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner that may have been the main caregiver at home. This has a huge impact on women and children, particularly where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family, and accounts for over 110,000 of the unmarried cohabitating couples in the East Midlands.
Mr Winnett said:
“The sad reality is that unmarried couples in the UK have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other if the relationship breaks down, or if one of them passes away.
I regularly meet people who have been affected in this way, and because of the lack of legal protection, there are times when I simply can’t help them.
This is why I urge all cohabiting couples in Nottinghamshire to consider taking out basic protections, such as a cohabitation agreement to protect both partners if they separate, or think about life insurance. By setting out your intentions in these documents, you’ll be in a much better situation if the unexpected happens.”
Mr Winnett added that Resolution had made resources available, both to the public but also local advice providers, such as mortgage advisers, to help them spread the word to cohabiting couples they work with.
“It’s likely the number of cohabiting couples will continue to grow in future, and that more people will be affected by these issues especially when children are involved. This is why I would urge all cohabiting couples to consider their legal situation, especially in relation to finances and property, and take legal steps to better protect themselves and their family in the future”.