Many couples are choosing to live together instead of marrying. However, there is NO such thing as Common Law Marriage. The law does not provide any special protection for a 'Common Law' partner although if there are dependant children they will be entitled to financial help.

In England and Wales 'Common Law' marriage was abolished over 250 years ago. A woman whose cohabitation ends is usually in a much worse position legally than her married sister on divorce. This is not the case in Scotland where a long term cohabiting couple are treated as 'married by custom and repute'.

There are three main areas where a cohabitant is at a disadvantage:

1. She cannot claim maintenance for herself ( although she can claim for her children)
2. She has fewer rights to the family home (unless she is the joint/owner) she can be evicted by her partner. She can only exceptionally claim a share in the value of the home if it is owned by the man. She may be able to secure use of the family home until her children complete F/T education, but the home will then revert to the father. By contrast a married woman would be able to claim either the home or a large part of the equity.
3. Unless the man has made provision for her in his will, she will receive nothing under the rules of intestacy and will only be able to make a claim if she can prove that she was dependent on him.

On the other hand, unmarried fathers are in a far weaker position than mothers regarding their children. Until recently, unless the parents were married at the time of the childs birth, the mother would gain sole parental responsibility (PR) for the children, which enables her to make all decisions relating to schooling, medical treatment, travel abroad etc without reference to the father. However, if the father registers the childs birth with the mother, he now has equal PR. A welcome and long overdue change. Fathers without PR are NOT relieved from their financial obligations to the children however