The rights of the common law wife: Myths and Reality


Published: 04/26/2013

by Stephen Kent


Stephen Kent, partner at Dutton Gregory LLP Solicitors

Anyone who read the recent report of the Court of Appeal case of Pamela Curran (BBC News article) will no doubt be shocked to find out that here is a woman who had helped her partner in his business but because the business and indeed their home was in her partner’s sole name, she acquired no rights in either, even after 30 years of hard work. 


This case alone must blast a hole through the commonly held misconception that an unmarried woman acquires financial rights against her partner simply because she has lived with him for six months or more.


In fact, the rights of a long standing cohabitee in the property or assets in the sole name of a partner is a complex area of the law - but the simple picture must be that if a cohabitee wants to prove an interest in (usually) her partner’s assets she will need some extremely clear and obvious evidence to that effect.


There is some comfort where a woman has children because she can make use of the Child Support Agency to get child maintenance and there is even law available to her to enable her to have accommodation purchased for her (her partner’s resources permitting) but only until the children reach age 18 or finish their education.


There are two simple possible options open to a cohabitee who is about to embark on long term cohabitation; either get married at the outset or make sure as many assets as possible are registered in joint names. 


For more information please contact Stephen Kent at Dutton Gregory LLP Solicitors on 02380 221344,


The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.