Jacksons Law Firm met MP Chi Onwurah to discuss how thousands of unmarried couples in the North East are at risk of losing everything if the relationship breaks down.
Family lawyers, Louisa Bestford and Emma Canham have called on unmarried couples in the North East to take action to protect themselves, as they could be vulnerable if the relationship breaks down.
Louisa and Emma from Jacksons Law Firm made the calls as part of a national Cohabitation Awareness Week that is being led by Resolution, who campaign for a fairer family justice system. They recognise that all unmarried couples, whether first time buyers or those who have a family and have lived together a while need protective planning.
Cohabitation Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the lack of rights that exist for unmarried couples who live together and this is surprisingly high.
There are about 7 million people in the UK living in this type of relationship, making this the fastest growing family type in the country. Recent figures from a Resolution member survey shows that within the North East there are 64,500 cohabiting couples with no children, 6,400 cohabiting couples with non-dependent children only and 56,700 cohabiting couples with dependent children. That is a staggering 127,500 cohabiting couples who are potentially at risk of losing everything if the relationship ends without any secure agreement in place.
Louisa Bestford explained that most couples have worked with mistakenly believe that they acquire “common law” rights after living with their partner for a certain amount of time or having children together.
Louisa said, “The sad reality is that unmarried couples have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other if the relationship breaks down. In a region like the North East there is a higher concentration of less affluent areas than in other regions, and savings for a rainy day just don’t exist.
“A recent example of a case of this nature was when an unmarried couple discovered that they had fallen pregnant, the lady’s wished to have the child but her partner had children from of a previous marriage and did not feel the same. This was such a fundamental issue they could not agree on and as such their relationship came to an end. In this not uncommon situation, the lady found herself in a vulnerable position because as cohabitees she was not entitled to financial support for herself and she had acted to her detriment as the house was is her partner’s sole name and as such she is not presumed to have any financial interest.”
“This is why I urge all cohabiting couples in the North East and throughout the country to consider taking out basic protections, such as a cohabitation agreement to protect both partners if they separate, or think about life insurance. By setting out your intentions in these documents, you’ll be in a much better situation if the unexpected happens.”
Local MP Chi Onwurah met with Mrs Louisa Bestford to discuss how Parliament can change the law to give cohabiting couples more protection. MP Onwurah said: “For those going through the stress and heart ache of a relationship breakup the last thing they need is to have to fight for their financial future or that of their children at the same time. My constituents don’t have the money to pursue cases in the civil courts, they need their rights to be clear and easily defendable. That’s why I’m working with Resolution to see how best we can give cohabiting couples more protection”.
Jacksons Law Firm is one of the North East’s longest established law firms and has been practising in the Tees Valley for over 140 years. Operating from its head office in Stockton on Tees, an office in Newcastle upon Tyne and office space in Sunderland, it is well placed to assist clients across the region on a wide range of business and personal legal advice. Employing over 70 members of staff, 40 of which are legally trained, the firm offers a wide range of legal services to businesses and people in the North East including corporate and commercial, commercial property, employment, litigation and private client advice.