Family Law – 4 common myths

Common law marriages hold similar value to marriages

Unfortunately not. The idea of a ‘common law marriage’ is in fact a fallacy. An unmarried couple living together do not automatically receive the rights that a married couple would have. Whilst the Law Commission has pointed out that this may be an area of the law that needs to change, it is not clear when or indeed if the government will pass any legislation reforming the law and giving more protection to cohabitants.

Civil partnerships and marriages are completely different

The recent introduction of civil partnerships marked a milestone for same-sex couples in the UK. However, the refusal to call such partnerships ‘marriages’ has been the cause of much controversy in recent months. Nevertheless , civil partners have similar rights to those of married couples – and the process of dissolving a civil partnership is very similar to divorce, if you differences – although, oddly, whereas adultery is considered grounds for divorce, it is not considered sufficient cause for the dissolution of a civil partnership.

After a divorce, the children will invariably live with their mother

Whilst this may be the general trend, it is not a blanket rule. The parent who predominantly took care of the children tends to continue primary care for them post-separation, and it happens to be the case that in the majority of marriages, it is the wife who adopted the role of main carer. Where parents shared equal childcare responsibilities, there is no reason why they children would not spend equal time with the mother and father. Our family law and divorce solicitors have certainly acted for quite a number of fathers over the years who have won residence – the right to have their children live with them – despite opposition from the children’s mother.

Pre-nuptial agreements are meaningless

Whilst it is true that English courts have been known to disregard pre-nuptial agreements more than other courts in the EU, a properly drafted agreement will generally be taken into account. Regardless of whether the government does indeed decide to make prenuptial agreements enforceable in England and Wales, it does appear, that over the years, the court are gradually softening their attitude and starting to pay more attention to properly drafted and negotiated prenuptial agreements.