What is a common law wife or common law husband?

The term “common law marriage” is often heard colloquially to describe couples who live together, often those who have lived together for a long period, but who have never married.

It is not however a legal term. There is no legal framework giving unmarried couples rights to make financial claims against one another by virtue of their relationship. This means that separating when you are unmarried is very different from if you are married.

It property is owned jointly then the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA) can be relied upon to settle disputes regarding the ownership of property. This is a complex area and if one partner wishes to dispute the legal ownership of a property they have to demonstrate that a trust has arisen because of intentions or actions.

If an unmarried couple have children then there is also law under the Children Act to deal with financial provision for the children.

If there is domestic abuse in a relationship between unmarried couples the court can be asked to make orders in respect of who is permitted to reside in the family home and transferring jointly held tenancies.

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