Cohabitation and the myth of “common law marriage”

As a (very extended) footnote to Daniel Hill’s two recent posts proposing the abolition of marriage, here and here, readers may be interested in the House of Commons Library’s helpful briefing paper published in June, “Common law marriage” and cohabitation, on how the law of England and Wales applies to cohabitants. It discusses how the current law affects cohabiting couples in the areas of property rights, housing, domestic violence, inheritance, social security, pensions, taxation, immigration, birth registration and parental responsibility. It also includes information about the number of cohabiting couples, the Law Commission’s – and others’ – proposals for reform and a short summary of the position in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Primarily, the briefing paper points out that “common law marriage” is not a status in English law – which will not be news to regular readers but which, nevertheless, is a folk-myth that refuses to die. Continue reading