Often referred to as ‘divorce day’, the first working day after the Christmas break has become something of a tradition as the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers as they are inundated with queries from people looking for advice on divorce.
Christmas is notorious for putting a strain on relationships and according to statistics, at this time of year there is a one in five chance that you’re considering divorcing your partner. The implications of this surge in divorces and separation can prove to be huge, especially for couples who co-habit and have children but are not married. The former high court judge Sir Paul Coleridge who runs the Marriage Foundation, an organisation which promotes marriage and stability in marriage, launched a marriage-promotion drive in the run up to Christmas. According to the Sunday Times, Sir Paul has talked of a recent case he’d seen: “She was the long-term girlfriend of a very high-profile celebrity person by whom she had no fewer than four children. It was looking as if it was going to come unstuck, and she wanted to talk to me informally about what her position was.” She said: “We’ll no doubt need an hour or two.” I said: “We’ll need a minute or two because the answer is very simple: you have no rights.”
There is a common misconception, especially in the 18-34 age group, that common law marriage gives at least some rights and that unmarried couples have rights to the other’s income just as married couples do. This is not the case and can prove to be catastrophic for the main carer who, in most cases, is unlikely to be the highest earner.
Divorce lawyers tend to be split on this issue with some hoping to see legislation that would bring ‘common law’ marriage in line with ‘traditional’ marriage, whilst others favour an approach similar to Sir Paul Coleridge’s with marriage being just about the most important contract it’s possible for couples to enter into.