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Common law wife

(79 Posts)
Biscuitmuncher Thu 15-Apr-21 23:32:15

Why do people still believe in this nonsense? My son has a house and his girlfriend is moving in, his work friends are telling him in a few years time she will be his common law wife and can claim half of it!

crazyH Thu 15-Apr-21 23:34:30

I don’t think so. I believe that law only applies in Scotland, but I could be wrong....

CafeAuLait Thu 15-Apr-21 23:39:30

I can't speak for your area or country but I know there are some countries where, after two years, the couple are treated as having been married after two years, for the purpose of asset division, should they part ways.

Eloethan Fri 16-Apr-21 00:19:05

My understanding is that a wife automatically has some entitlement to a share of her husband's earnings and assets in her own right whereas an unmarried partner is only entitled to maintenance for children. I don't know if that prevents a partner bringing civil proceedings to claim more than child maintenance.

Anyway, my understanding is that an unmarried partner is certainly at a disadvantage if the relationship ends.

Doodledog Fri 16-Apr-21 00:36:01

It’s not clear from your post whether you are looking out for the interests of your son or wanting to protect his girlfriend, but if she moves in and contributes to the mortgage or pays towards home improvements she may have a stake in the value of the house, although probably nowhere near half - it will depend on how much she has contributed. If she contributes to bills and food, on the other hand, she would end up homeless without assets if the relationship ended, which is not a position I would want my daughter to put herself in.

Hithere Fri 16-Apr-21 02:32:43

Marriage is not for everyone

In the past, couples got married because they wanted to have legal protection

I am glad there is an alternative

CanadianGran Fri 16-Apr-21 04:14:16

I believe a cohabitation agreement should be in place. I know it's not something most couples want to do, but it is in their best interest, especially if one comes into the relationship with more assets.

We do have common-law laws here in Canada. They were made to protect those that were left with nothing after years of cohabitation.

Kim19 Fri 16-Apr-21 04:22:22

I've never understood why any couple, who have set up a life together and are free to do so, don't want to be married. For me it was kind of natural, sealed the deal, the ultimate compliment and actually kind of 'cosy'. Certainly worked for me. Sadly, my children have decided against it. I'm absolutely okay with their decision, of course, but confess to not understanding it.

Loislovesstewie Fri 16-Apr-21 05:28:45

In England there is no such thing as common law marriage, the situation in Scotland is different. I don't understand why some still think it exists. If anyone wants the benefits of marriage then get married; a quick register office ceremony does the job but if not then don't complain about not getting those benefits. Sorry to sound harsh, but it does annoy me that people sometimes want things both ways.

Framilode Fri 16-Apr-21 06:13:41

If you don't want to get married then it's now possible for heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership. This gives the legal protection of marriage without it actually being marriage, which some couples seem to be so against.

Alastair Campbell has just had a civil partnership after many years living with his partner.

Calendargirl Fri 16-Apr-21 07:19:55


You say I’m absolutely ok with their decision, of course, but confess to not understanding it

To me, you don’t sound ‘absolutely ok’ with it. You would much rather they were married, but accept it is their choice and their decision.

Quite rightly, you are not interfering, but it doesn’t mean you agree with them, and why should you?

Grammaretto Fri 16-Apr-21 07:44:13

This comes up from time to time on radio programmes.
In Scotland there used to be the status of common law but it held no sway in court so now it is actual law I am afraid and if you decide not to marry - one of my DS is not married to his long time partner/mother of his children it is important to clarify your legal status.
Marriage is useful for automatically establishing Next of Kin and rights for any offspring.
If your unmarried partner dies and leaves no will, any legacy could pass to a second cousin twice removed in a worse case scenario.

Someone I knew, an old man, died and only then did his adult DC appear to claim inheritance. His "common law" wife or "Bidie-in" as it is called in Scotland missed out and she had lived with him for many years.

suziewoozie Fri 16-Apr-21 08:09:15

These sorts of decisions are fine until they are not. As long as it is a truly equal decision that both are happy with and understand the legal implications- but so often this isn’t the case.

Iam64 Fri 16-Apr-21 08:22:10

So called common law wives never assume the same legal rights as wives. Mr Justice Mumby, head of the Family Division raised this pre-pandemic as something that should be modernised. Many couples choose not to marry, children are born, the relationship ends, the mother ends up struggling. I’m with Mumby.

If your son wants to secure the situation, the couple need a written, legal, agreement.

Witzend Fri 16-Apr-21 08:33:38

A common law wife has no legal rights AFAIK.
A civil partner does, though, so why people who don’t want to be officially married don’t do this, I can’t understand. Especially if they have children.

I suspect it may well be because one or other doesn’t actually want to make the commitment.
I know of a couple of long term relationships where they didn’t make it official because one partner kept saying ‘It’s just a piece of paper’ - only to bugger off after several years with someone else, who they did marry shortly afterwards.

Kim19 Fri 16-Apr-21 08:41:49

C, I'm obviously a poor wordsmith or you would have believed me.

Loislovesstewie Fri 16-Apr-21 09:02:45

It's not just a piece of paper, it's actually a legal declaration and situation. I think most people don't consider the legalities of marriage and how it alters a person's status in law.

grannysyb Fri 16-Apr-21 09:39:25

You can have a civil partnership, this gives you protection. A neighbours partner died very suddenly, no will, what a nightmare. Luckily their son was over 18, so his father's half of the house passed to him, but if he had been younger it would have been dreadful. People still seem to think that "common law" will protect them.

Maria59 Fri 16-Apr-21 10:01:18

Married persons property act applies to unmarried couples living together as well.

Nannarose Fri 16-Apr-21 10:07:41

No real status, as already said. However, she could claim if she has substantially contributed to the value of the house, either financially or by working on it.
She will also have certain rights if children are involved.

Certainly nothing to worry about in the immediate future, but after a year or so, worth considering the future, for the protection of both.

I get irritated when some people claim that the 'woman gets the house' when mostly she only gets the right to stay in it whilst bringing up children.

Elegran Fri 16-Apr-21 10:20:27

When people believe that living together confers the ame rights as the legal agreement of marriage, at what point do they think those rights automatically kick in. After ten years? Five? One? A month? A week? A one-night stand? When exactly should a brief fling suddenly transform into a lifetime committment?

The answer is, when the people involved decide that it is now permanent, and take active steps to record that - with either a marriage,or civil partnership, or a will or signed (and witnessed) declaration that states it unequivocally. If they think enough of one another to share their lives, surely they would take that much trouble for one another.

luluaugust Fri 16-Apr-21 10:39:07

Obviously the work friends are wrong but if the girlfriend moves in and contributes with money as a rent then she will gain some tenants rights I think.

Iam64 Fri 16-Apr-21 18:51:32

Elegran, yes of course you’re right. In reality, so many women/mothers live under the false illusion that going to law to confirm a permanent relationship is unnecessary.
Joni Mitchell may have believed in the 70’s that ‘we don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall, keeping us safe and true’. It’s a romantic mantra, sadly still holding sway

foxie48 Fri 16-Apr-21 19:12:58

I think what I find offensive is the "mates at work" who think the woman is in the relationship for financial gain. Perhaps they are in love and intend to have a permanent relationship, perhaps not but isn't it sad that people always think about the money first. Surely they are just sharing a home (and a bed!)

EllanVannin Fri 16-Apr-21 19:45:38

Married or not a solicitor should be sought for a legal entitlement where property is involved.