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Common Law Spouse

Advice Written by Zoë Sproull 07 Feb 2018

I recently completed an online application to get a quote for insurance and as part of that application I was asked for my marital status.  There was a drop down box with the various options I could chose from, which included “common law spouse”.  This annoyed me. Why? Because, the concept of “common law spouse” does not exist in English law. OK, but why should that bother me?

My concern is that by including this option people are led to believe that such a status exists. They believe that even if you are unmarried, cohabitation will allow you to receive the same level of legal rights as if you had been married.  This is not true. But given the number of times banks or other financial institutions give the option of “common law spouse”  on forms, it is not surprising the myth of a “common law spouse” continues.

This is a concern, particularly with the rise in the number of cohabiting families, since many do not appreciate the legal implications of their status. 

Problems arise not only if couples separate but also in terms of other financial planning. They may not make a Will, in the wrongly held belief it is unnecessary to do so because their partner is their next of kin and will inherit their estate anyway. If you're cohabiting and are unsure of the laws surrounding your family life, then you may wish to contact Star Legal to obtain specialist legal advice from one of our experienced family lawyers.

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