The belief that a ‘Common Law' marriage gives the same rights, especially in terms of the division of the assets of the relationship, to a couple as does a marriage or civil partnership is entirely unfounded.
Basically in the event of a divorce a married couple will split the assets roughly 50/50, but if you breakup as an unmarried couple, irrespective of how long you have been together the criteria used to make the division could be very different.
There are believed to be two million unmarried couples in the country many of whom believe that if divorce were to come their way they would be safeguarded by current divorce legislation in the same way as a married couple. Given that it is quite likely that nearly half of them will break up then a million couples or two million people could well be in for a big surprise. Being one of them is probably not a good idea.
If you are living together then the best advice is to seek advice from an Independant Financial Adviser with special expertise in these matters. There are key financial issues that unmarried couples really do need to address.
Married couples are given certain tax exemptions but if you are living together as a couple then you are treated as two individuals by the good folk at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. This means that you could be paying more tax on your incomes and be liable for some substantial Captial Gains tax and Inheritance Tax if you want to sell assets or leave them to each other when one of you dies.
As a cohabiting couple you are in a very vulnerable position. If you have a pension from your work or one that that pays out to spouses in the event of death then the pension provider rarely recognises live in partners. So the surviving partner would receive no benefit from it. The situation upon separation would also not be good as you will have no right to a percentage of your partner's pension irrespective of how long you have been together. You need some solid financial advice.
These really don't exist either for cohabiting couples. The person who signed the lease for a rented property or whose name is on the Mortgage Agreement has the sole rights in respect of that property. This is despite the fact that the rent or mortgage payments have been shared or even paid totally by the other person. It sounds harsh but it just reflects the fact that there are no shared rights within the nonexistent concept of Common Law marriage.
Without a will your partner will not be automatically entitled to inherit anything upon your death. Your surviving partner will also not be entitled to any state benefits like bereavements benefits or a pension based upon the National Insurance contributions made by the partner that died. The simple conclusion from this is, get a will.
This all sounds a whole lot depressing! However, it's not that bad, get the legal advice and the financial advice that will enable you to draw up the right agreements to make your life a little more secure. Or you could get married! Well maybe not!