Nearly half of UK citizens believe in the common law marriage myth

05 February 2013

In the run up to Marriage Week 2013, new research commissioned by leading UK relationships charity OnePlusOne shows that almost half of UK citizens still mistakenly believe in ‘common law’ marriage, at a time when they are forming relationships and settling down.

The survey, conducted by Opinium Research, found that 47% of UK citizens aged 18-34 think cohabiting couples have the same legal rights as their married counterparts, while 58% of people across all age groups do not know that ‘common law’ marriage is not a recognised legal status.

The research highlights the need for Married or Not, an online resource from OnePlusOne which outlines the legal differences between marriage and living together.

Cohabiting couples in the UK have virtually no legal rights in the event of death or relationship breakdown, though many are unaware of their lack of legal protection until they find themselves in desperate circumstances.

Married or Not now attracts more than 2,500 visitors each month, offering them information on how their relationship status affects their legal rights.

It also offers guidance for couples on bringing up difficult conversations regarding relationship status; helping them to strengthen their relationship by making plans for the future and discussing the ‘what-ifs’ – how they will ensure both partners are protected should the worst happen.

OnePlusOne recognises the benefits marriage can bring to a relationship, but evidence shows it is the quality, not legal status, of couple relationships that can contribute to positive social and economic outcomes for families.

The Married or Not resource is therefore valuable for couples regardless of their views on marriage and highlights the pros and cons of alternative forms of legal protection for cohabiting couples, including cohabitation agreements.

Penny Mansfield, director of OnePlusOne, commented:

“It’s really concerning that when a lot of young people are thinking about settling down they’re not fully aware of the legal status of their relationships. We often don’t check out our rights because it seems unromantic, or even untrusting, to raise legal and financial issues about a relationship. But exploring the common ‘what-ifs,’ before difficulties arise puts couples and families on a more secure footing.”

Notes to editors

The survey was commissioned by OnePlusOne and conducted by Opinium Research using an online survey of 2,016 UK adults aged 18+ from 1st to 4th of February 2013. Results have been

weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Full copies of the complete research findings, including regional differences, are available on request.

OnePlusOne is a UK charity that creates resources that strengthen relationships. We help couples and parents through a range of web-services, while our online learning equips frontline workers with the skills to offer them timely relationship support in a face to face setting.

Based on the latest research evidence, our work promotes early action and aims to equip people with the skills and knowledge to work on relationship issues before they become entrenched. The result is couples, parents and children who are happier, healthier, and more successful.

For more information and interviews with Penny Mansfield please contact Martiena van der Meer, / 0207 553 9530/ 07837 013 970 (out of hours)