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that all schoolgirls need to be taught that as cohabitees they have virtually no rights

(256 Posts)
babybarrister Tue 01-Nov-16 09:55:05

Sadly many people believe in the concept of the "common law spouse" - like the tooth fairy I am afraid it does not exist. A woman living with a man who then separates from him probably has very, very few rights - there is certainly no right to any spousal maintenance and it is extremely difficult to make any claim on the man's assets. This is in stark contrast with the rights that a woman might have on marriage where the name on the title deeds of a property is largely irrelevant.
Whilst there are rights for minor children including maintenance and the provision of accommodation, such rights only last for the child's minority leaving a woman who has given up a career and does not have her name on the house deeds with nothing when the children leave home.

Whilst clearly the lack of legal rights for cohabitees can affect both genders, it is a fact that the group which is most disadvantaged through not knowing about the law are young women who have children with a man when they are not married. Those women who do not have their names on the title deeds of the properties are seriously disadvantaged.

Of course anyone can have a google and there is lots of information out there, but if you do not understand that there is an issue then you are very unlikely to do so. It is also possible to arrange your financial affairs as a cohabitee in such a way as to minimise the risks - all properties could be conveyed into joint names etc etc . There will still be no right to any spousal maintenance though.

So I would like to suggest that all young women have 30 minutes devoted to telling them about the legal differences between being married and not being married. Once young women have this information then they can make an informed choice about whether they wish to cohabit and in particular whether they wish to cohabit, have children and not work.

Temporaryname137 Tue 01-Nov-16 09:57:40

I hear what you say, but I still think it should be taught to both boys and girls. First, as we have more equality, the roles will become more reversed by the time our children have grown up (eg: my DP gave up work to look after DD and is selling his house; he lives in my flat and is not on the deeds).

Secondly, if boys learned about the same things it might make for more equitable behaviour in the future.

AuntieStella Tue 01-Nov-16 09:58:31

You are absolutely right that people need to be better informed about this.

And of course both sexes need to know about all types of set-up.

I'm not sure about whether school is the right place to deliver this - though it could be included in SRE

babybarrister Tue 01-Nov-16 09:59:33

happy for boys to be present during this but young women are the target group!

SaucyJack Tue 01-Nov-16 09:59:42

How about we teach our girls to earn their own money, and not have to rely on a man?

Sallycinnamum Tue 01-Nov-16 10:00:30

I couldn't agree more.

We got married not only because we wanted to but because my solicitor urged me to in order to protect myself financially.

A good half of my friends are unmarried with children and no legal protection and are completely ignorant as to how vulnerable they are.

reallyanotherone Tue 01-Nov-16 10:08:55

I agree, but I also agree that boys should be included.

My property is in my sole name. Dp's ex got their property transferred into her sole name when they divorced- Her new DP is not on the mortgage or the deeds.

In fact my DP was left completely homeless with no claim on any part of the house or assets when his ex kicked him out, even though he was joint owner and they had a joint mortgage. Because she had the kids she had more right to the house, and a court deemed that she couldn't afford to buy him out and that would affect the children. So she kept it all.

Men are just as likely to move in with a woman with kids who already has her own property and be left with nothing.

One question though. My understanding is that even if not married a partner can have a claim on a property if they can prove they have contributed to the mortgage and upkeep.

Your post seems to work on the assumption that the woman is either a low earner or a SAHM, and not financially contributing to the household.

meditrina Tue 01-Nov-16 10:10:32

Even if the girls are rich or go on to have a lucrative as career, they still need to know about the different legal arrangements for different set ups, so they can choose the one they want, and (if non-marital) know what other factors affect future prospects.

Munstermonchgirl Tue 01-Nov-16 10:10:36

I think it's important for girls and boys. By using the term 'schoolgirl' you're implying it should perhaps be on the compulsory curriculum. I personally don't feel that's the right place. Also young people learn by example mainly, not through being told something, and parents and home are a big influence. I would predict that girls living in families where the parents (or parent and step parent) cohabit, and where the woman is a non earner or lower earner, would be least likely to take the information on board, despite being the most in need of it.

Speaking as a teacher, Short sessions of information giving tend not to be very effective in schools, particularly as young people now are so focused on 'is it on the exam curriculum??' (whole other thread there!!) TBH this is an important message but One that needs to be embedded from a young age and probably by lived example rather than a didactic approach

user1475253854 Tue 01-Nov-16 10:11:21


AllPowerfulLizardPerson Tue 01-Nov-16 10:13:14

"My understanding is that even if not married a partner can have a claim on a property if they can prove they have contributed to the mortgage and upkeep."

I think this is called a beneficial interest and it's difficult and rare to achieve. And most definitely should not be relied on. Rather than pay someone else's mortgage, it's worth considering starting your own savings account based in the rent you might otherwise be paying, so you have pot of money that is definitely yours shoukd you need it.

JellyBelli Tue 01-Nov-16 10:13:47

YANBU, except to say girls only. Life skills should be taught to all school children.

Only1scoop Tue 01-Nov-16 10:18:45

I'm continually shocked by posts I read I here.

Ketsby Tue 01-Nov-16 10:30:34

I'd extend it to ensuring your own home, savings, investments and career and to discourage financial reliance on men.

mrsmortis Tue 01-Nov-16 10:30:39

And don't forget the impact of inheritance tax. My aunt and uncle recently got married after more than 35 years together and 4 kids because they were worried about the impact of 2 lots of inheritance tax (based solely on the value of the house) on their kids inheritance.

SpunkyMummy Tue 01-Nov-16 10:30:45


People (men and woman) need to know their rights and duties, about legal consequences etc.

juneau Tue 01-Nov-16 10:31:33

You make a very good point OP. I have several friends who dress up their not being married to their partners as a feminist choice or as 'We don't believe in marriage', but I think most women (and presumably some men too), don't understand the legal implications of this choice. My dad (family court judge), told me from a young age not to have children unless I was married first. I didn't. But not everyone has a judge for a dad and this 'common law spouse' nonsense is an urban myth that just runs and runs. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard it. I've always said 'No, it doesn't work like that', but people who believe in it can be evangelical in their misinformation.

SpunkyMummy Tue 01-Nov-16 10:36:01


Exactly. My mother and father both have law degrees (in the case of my mother not from the UK. And it's actually law and art history, I think) and they both told me the same.

It's not that I'm morally opposed to the idea of not being married. But legally? Potentially disastrous.
I'm glad DH and I agreed on this.

babybarrister Tue 01-Nov-16 10:44:38

the reason I identified schoolgirls is that young women are disproportionately disadvantaged by this ignorance of the law - not young men! it is women who are going to get pregnant, give up career opportunities and then wonder why they took the decisions that they did ....

IToldYouIWasFreaky Tue 01-Nov-16 10:47:39

I have several friends who dress up their not being married to their partners as a feminist choice or as 'We don't believe in marriage', but I think most women (and presumably some men too), don't understand the legal implications of this choice

Could you be any more patronising? hmm I never married my partner but I fully understood the legal implications of not doing so and we made provisions such as owning the house jointly and ensuring my ex has parental responsibility for DS.

I agree that people should be fully informed and that there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the whole "common law marriage" thing but please don't assume that everyone who makes a different choice from you is ignorant.

SerendipityPhenomenon Tue 01-Nov-16 10:48:34

How about we teach our girls to earn their own money, and not have to rely on a man?

Not always so easy when you're about to give birth or have small children.

katsmumx Tue 01-Nov-16 10:48:54

My 14 year old daughter sent me this the other day...

a8mint Tue 01-Nov-16 10:49:57

Yanbu until you started targeting your talk at girls.fewer young men may be affected but for those that are the problem is equally bad.

charlestonchaplin Tue 01-Nov-16 10:50:06

I am constantly amazed by the ignorance of the general public.Everyone knows you can get out of a 'bad' marriage but it can be financially tricky. Everyone knows people, often men, who avoid marriage often because of the financial consequences of a past divorce. Phrases like, 'She took him to the cleaners' are bandied about. So everyone knows marriage confers rights and responsibilities. So why do people think the law should give them, without any action on their part, all the good bits of marriage and none of the bad bits?

OP, I hope your campaign doesn't involve schools. This attitude that children should be taught all life skills at school is ridiculous. What exactly is the role of parents these days?

juneau Tue 01-Nov-16 10:50:52

That's why I said 'most', and not 'all'.

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