A CHRISTCHURCH firm is urging unmarried couples to take steps to protect themselves in the event of a split.

Since the early 1970s the number of people getting married has steadily decreased, dropping a further 3.4 per cent last year.

With fewer people choosing to formalise their relationship, increasingly separating couples risk falling foul of the ‘common law marriage’ myth, says Emma Hamilton Cole of Williams Thompson Solicitors.

They may find a lack of financial claims available to them, for example in relation to pensions and income.

“If an unmarried couple breaks up, they would not necessarily be entitled to share in what they thought were their joint assets, such as a house they may have made significant financial contributions to, if they aren’t named as an owner on the deed,” said Ms Hamilton Cole.

“This is the same regardless of how long they have been together or whether or not they have children.”

Figures show that in 2016 there were 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, or 6.6 million cohabiting adults.

This is officially the fastest growing family type, more than doubling from 1.5m couples just 20 years ago.

“Couples need to know that they are not given rights through common law marriage, so they must take appropriate actions to protect themselves,” said Ms Hamilton Cole.

“For example, signing a cohabitation agreement. This is an easy and cost-effective way to get financial peace of mind without getting married or forming a civil partnership.”

To find out more visit williamsthompson.co.uk