There is no such arrangement as a common law husband and wife and those who rely on that status to confer legal rights are likely to be disappointed. Keith Doherty, family law solicitor at Wellers Law Group has produced a guide for unmarried couples to help explain how the law works.

Every profession has those statements where you say if I had £1 every time everyone said that I would be a millionaire. For me there are a few but one would definitively be but we are common law man and wife or as I had recently, common law civil partners.

My response is always the same, there is no such thing as common law man and wife. It can be hard telling the lovely client sitting opposite you that they have no claim against pension funds nor income of their long term partner following a recent split. Both of which they have managed to achieve in part because your client stayed home to look after their now adult child whilst their partner worked.

Research indicates that many people still believe in one of the biggest urban myths, that of the ‘common law marriage’. They were not aware that this is not a recognised legal status or that living together does not automatically give rise to the same legal rights against their partner that they would have had if they had been married.

Instead the law relating to unmarried couples is a messy combination of different pieces of legislation. Where there are no children any claims are based in strict rules of property law and complex rules of Trusts. If there are children then claims under the Children Act 1989 Schedule 1 might be possible. However, these claims are limited to receiving money for a particular purpose for the benefit of a child.

This is a complicated area of law and to assist we at Wellers Law Group LLP have prepared a Guide for Unmarried Couples.