Family Mythbusters: “I’m his common law wife” & others

Our experts in the family department share and correct some of the most common myths regularly heard in relation to divorce, child arrangements and finances.

Myth #1: If we separate after living together, I’m entitled to half of the house

If you are married, then the property in which you both live is classed as the family home and could be considered a matrimonial asset on divorce. It will depend on many factors, such as how long you have been married etc as to whether this asset will be divided equally.

Contrast that with couples who are not married.  In most cases, the names on the title deeds confirm ownership of the house and it is very difficult to establish that you have a financial interest in it if the property is not in your name or owned jointly. We recommend that unmarried partners owning property should enter into a declaration to record the shares each of them owns in the equity.

Myth #2: I’m his common-law wife

The term “common-law wife/husband/partner” does not exist in law. There is no specific legal definition and it is rather used as an informal term for couples who cohabit. Even if you have lived together for many years and perhaps have a family together, this does not give you the same rights or responsibilities as a spouse or civil partner on divorce.

Myth #3: If the children live with me, I will get to keep the house until they leave school

young girl smashing unicorn pinata with bat
Destroying the myths around divorce, separation and child arrangements

This is not correct. Some couples reach this agreement by consent and on rare occasions the court can agree to make an order in those terms in a divorce, but it is not very common.

Just because one parent may live with the children most of the time, that alone does not entitle them to any greater claim on the former matrimonial home. The court will always try to ensure that both separating parties can secure their own accommodation without having one party tied to a property for many years to come.

Myth #4: I’m their mother, so the children will live with me

This is not true at all. Every case is decided differently upon its individual facts but the starting point is  where possible, the children should grow up with both parents as equally as possible. This isn’t always possible due to practical difficulties such as physical distance or work commitments. Being a mother gives you no extra rights whatsoever.

Myth #5: My ex earns more money than me so they will have to pay me spousal maintenance

Even where one party earns significantly more than the other, that higher-earner does not automatically have a financial responsibility to maintain their former spouse for the foreseeable future. Courts prefer to achieve a “clean break” wherever possible, allowing for both parties to draw a line under the financial arrangements and move on without any lingering financial obligations.

The content of this post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. The content is subject to change and we accept no liability for individuals relying on the information within this article.

We have teams of highly experienced professional dedicated to advising both married and unmarried couples who are separating or having issues with arrangements for the children. Whether you are married or not, we can advise you of your rights and offer a gentle approach to what is probably the most stressful thing you will have to deal with. We can even offer advice to couples who are buying property together and wish to make it clear from the outset how they will divide their finances, should the worst happen. 

Contact us for more information on divorce, separation, child arrangements, declarations of trust and more

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