The Age-Old Myth of the Common Law Husband or Wife

 16 common law partnership

One of the most common myths in Family Law is that of the 'common-law husband or wife'...

The term common law is frequently used in the press and television to describe a situation where a couple has been together for a long time and, although they aren’t married, they may as well be.

But does it have any legal meaning?


It’s a social term, and not a legal term. In the legal world, you are only a husband or a wife if you are married, regardless of how long you have been together, how many children you may have together, or how many properties you may own together.

So-called common law husbands and wives have no claim to each other’s pensions in the event of a separation, nor do they have any right to claim spousal maintenance against each other. If the parties have children together, child maintenance (as opposed to spousal maintenance) may be appropriate but that is all.

It all changes if you are married

Conversely, married couples can make claims against each other’s pension and seek spousal maintenance from each other in the event of a separation, although it does depend on the circumstances.

Where a couple aren’t married, properties owned by one party - or in joint names - are dealt with under entirely separate legislation. It may be possible for separated parties to make a claim against properties in certain circumstances.

What can I do if I'm not married or in a civil partnership?

If you have separated from your long term partner and you have children together, or you would like to know whether you can make a claim against your ex-partner’s property, call Cunningtons Family Law department to arrange an appointment with one of our family law specialists.

Our Locations

Braintree - 01376 326868

Cunningtons LLP in Great Square and Tofts Walk in Braintree, Essex, is the head office for Cunningtons Solicitors across the UK. Established in 1748, the Braintree head office in Great Square is still in its original offices. This amounts to almost 300 years of Experience and Tradition.

The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

Read More

Braintree Walk In
Brighton & Hove: 01273 725229
Chelmsford: 01245 264494
Croydon: 0208 688 8446
Ilford: 020 8553 0002
Solihull: 0121 7056868
Wickford: 01268 732268