Under English law there is no such thing as a common law marriage. The rights of cohabitees upon separation are fundamentally different from those of a spouse. Under English law, cohabitees have limited legal rights flowing from their relationship, whether they live together as husband and wife or in a same sex relationship. This may create huge injustice when a relationship breaks down or when one person dies.
Increasingly, cohabitees wish to enter into contracts setting out what should happen in the event of a breakdown of the relationship or in the event of death. Expert advice is also often required on the law of trusts, property ownership and provision for children.
In many parts of the world, marriage contracts detailing what will happen on divorce or separation are the norm and often imposed by law. In England and Wales, the Law Commission has recommended their introduction but at present they are not binding in Court, although they are becoming increasingly important as evidence of the parties' intentions upon a breakdown in a relationship. They may be particularly helpful for those:
Who have a great disparity of assets.
For whom a divorce could take place in a variety of jurisdictions.
In their later years who wish to try to provide certainty for the future.
Who are likely to inherit significant sums.