Relationships

Cohabitation – Why The Law Needs Changing In Order To Protect Modern Families

While marriage is still popular, cohabitation outside marriage is indisputably on the rise. In fact, over the last twenty years, the number of people living together outside marriage has approximately doubled. The level of protection offered to unmarried couples in England and Wales in the event of a separation, however, has not. Scotland does have some recognition of unmarried partnerships, but even so it has nothing like the concept of “common law marriage” which many people believe does exist.

The rise and rise of cohabitation 

Back in 1996 there were about 1.5 million cohabiting couples in a UK population of about 58 million people. In 2017, there are about 3.3 million cohabiting couples in a UK population of about 66 million. It’s unclear what has fuelled this rise. Certainly living together no longer carries the social stigma it once did, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. Perhaps the (potential) expense of weddings or the prospect of having to go through a divorce is making people wait longer and think harder before they decide whether or not they want to “tie the knot” at all, let alone with whom. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that increasing numbers of couples are cohabiting rather than marrying or entering into civil partnerships and yet the law relating to such relationships is essentially conspicuous by its absence.

There is no such thing as “common-law marriage”

In legal terms, marriage is a contract between two parties, which creates duties and obligations between them. As part of the marriage contract, couples agree to pool their assets and hence when a marriage is ended through divorce, assets are divided between the separating halves of the couple on the basis of law and precedent. This is by no means a perfect system and in the real world, the nature of divorce may be that neither party feels completely satisfied that the deal was fair, but it does at least offer some level of protection for people in situations where there is clear financial disparity between the partners. Contrary to what about two thirds of people appear to believe (according to a recent ComRes poll), there is no such thing as common law marriage and hence there is, currently, practically no legal protection for those ending cohabiting partnerships in England and Wales and very little in Scotland.

Lack of legal protection exposes cohabiting partners to financial risk

When couples cohabit outside of marriage there is no automatic agreement to pool assets and there is no formal process to follow to disband the union. Hence, dividing assets can ultimately turn into a matter of proof of ownership plus practicalities of possession. This is probably most evident when it comes to property. If the house is in the name of one person, then there is a high degree of likelihood that, under current laws, they will keep full ownership of it, even if the other party has contributed to the mortgage. There are some circumstances in which a party could claim a “beneficial interest” in the property, but these are limited. Given the strength of the housing market and the rise in cohabitation, this in itself would seem a strong argument for the government to act on the urging of both members of the public and members of the legal profession, including Baroness Hale, the president of the UK’s supreme court and introduce much stronger legal protection for couples ending cohabiting relationships.

Author Bio Kerry Smith is the head of family law at K J Smith Solicitors, a specialist family law firm who deal with a wide range of issues including divorce, domestic violence, civil partnerships and prenuptial agreements.

Emotional Aspects of Searching for an Ex-Partner Online

The internet has made it easy to check up on former spouses and boy or girlfriends. In some cases, one may feel relief, “I dodged a bullet on that one.” In other instances, it can lead to the what ifs – “What if I had stayed with him/her.” When deciding whether or not to look up an ex-partner, first think about your motivation. Is it idle curiosity or pondering the question of getting divorced, if an ex may be available?

One acquaintance’s wife went on social media to discover the whereabouts of an old boyfriend. She contacted him and they started having long weekends together that she passed off as business trips. When her suspicious husband confronted her, she confessed about the affair. This couple soon divorced and she later married her former boyfriend. Be clear why you are seeking out information, especially when already in a committed relationship.

People may be delving back into the past to see if they have made good choices. This can get into the dangerous territory of regrets. There may be one person who slipped through their fingers and got away. Seeing that individual’s fabulous lifestyle online can have one questioning why they broke up with them, especially if currently going through a divorce. People may wonder if they were too hasty in letting a love interest go. Instead of saying “what if” think about the great children you now have or the life experiences you would have missed if you did not take the road that you did.

Social media and online searches hit the surface- the great professional accomplishments- but usually do not get at the character traits and values. What tore you apart before, can still do so today unless you both have changed or had some type of enlightenment.

After much prodding by a friend to look up people online, I recently decided to give it a go. I searched for a former fiancé and got quite a surprise. I had broken up with him because of a few character issues and I am sure I had my quirks too. He got married within a few years after our parting of ways, which ended in a divorce fairly quickly. What I discovered online is that he is one of the top surgeons in his field, won all kinds of awards, including “Best Doctor” and is employed at a prestigious institution.

What comes as a surprise is the intensity of emotions that arise as a result of searching for a person from your past. My fiancé and I had a clean break and two years later bumped into each other which ignited our passion. We decided to pursue getting back together again. It  seemed like miscommunication on both of our parts led to us each thinking that the other had changed their minds. When I realized our mistake over two decades later, I went through profound grief  which manifested itself physically, as if big waves were crashing against me. I mourned not having his loving parents, siblings and extended family in my life. I felt a sense of loss. Others may experience anger, sadness, or wanting a time machine to go back into the past. When deciding whether or not to do a search, be prepared for some strong reactions to what is discovered.

If having problems after doing an online search for an ex, consider a session with a life coach. They can give you a reality check and get you back on track.  Thinking over our last phone call, I thought maybe my communication was not clear.  The coach pointed out that my fiancé had the responsibility to clarify what he thought my message was, in case of misinterpretation.   He easily could have popped in where I worked to see me. This was before cell phones, so I did not have a way to contact him. My life coach suggested perhaps a marriage for us was not meant to be.

In some instances, former boyfriends and girlfriends have found each other again through social media and got married. The common thread is that they are both single and what broke them up is no longer a factor. These include having been too young, parental disapproval or a long-distance relationship, such as going to universities on different continents. It was not a character flaw.

There is a way to satisfy curiosity regarding old classmates and high school sweethearts. See if your class has a group on social media, such as on Facebook where you can catch up with these friends. You can find out what is new with your former flame in this group setting, without contacting them directly.

After a traumatic divorce, one can be lonely, especially when losing friends and some in-laws because of it. One can feel vulnerable and trying to get comfort from past relationships may not be the right path. Give yourself time to heal and gain self-understanding before attempting any social media searches for past partners. When feeling alone, consider networking, meeting new people and joining clubs. Take up old hobbies and follow your interests. Surrounding yourself with supportive people may be what you need most, rather than searching for former loves.

My article was originally printed in DivorceForce   https://www.divorceforce.com/   Affected by Divorce? Join DivorceForce, the online community committed to empowering those affected by divorce. Many helpful articles for those facing divorce.   @divorceforce (Twitter)

 

New Trend for Second Marriages

There is a new trend after divorce when getting remarried, which is each person keeps their own home. Some divorced folks whose subsequent marriages are in their second decade or so, claim living apart is their secret to marital satisfaction. Keep in mind, these are people who do not have a child together who would be shuttled back and forth between two places. These couples are childless or have offspring who have flown the nest. Why is this occurring?

In one case, a couple could not decide which location to live in. Although neither had nine-to-five jobs, they had work commitments tied to their residences. He free-lanced in London and she was an artist near Cornwall who painted exquisite landscapes. They felt that they had loads of time to decide where to live which turned out to be the key to making this work. He spends long weekends enjoying the bucolic countryside around her cottage and she likes the excitement of a few days in London. They use their time apart for some solitude or getting together with local friends. What surprised these two was that they had already hit upon the solution – to continue their current lifestyle permanently . When together, they are very focused on each other. How does living in separate households work?

  • Are you both independent types who crave alone time or do not want someone around 24/7, no matter how much you are in love? One couple who each have been divorced, are both in education. He is on the faculty of a college and she is a therapist in a primary school. They live nearby in their own houses and have been together for nine years. She states that they would “Drive each other crazy” if they ever lived under the same roof.
  • Logistically is it better to have your separate places? This may be due to having to be near elderly parents or a family member with a terminal condition. Another example is when job commitments are in different places and each wants to keep their house.
  • It may be temporary, such as when someone has a job contract that will be finished in several months. A divorced woman with a beloved elderly cat married a divorced man who has a severe allergy to them. The cat was not going to be around much longer. She was at her condo every day to feed and be with the cat, sometimes spending the night, particularly at the end. Her husband told me that he has such respect for his wife. They knew this was a temporary set-up and the cat died six months after their marriage. This woman has no regrets since her eighteen-year-old companion lived out his final days in a familiar place.
  • Maybe one is a big city person and the other loves farm life or living in the countryside. This does not have to be an either-or situation. Living separately part-time and commuting to be with each is doable. It helps when the couple’s places are an easy drive or linked by good public transportation.
  • Two opposites may attract, yet not be able to live day-to-day with each other. A divorced woman wed a military man who was a widower. He had been married for fifty years and was used to things being done in a certain way, plus has quirks from his time in the military (extreme neatness). She is a creative artist who is oblivious to a mess and is attached to her tiny home. He bought a condo a block away and so far, this situation is working out for them.

Families may not mix well. I asked my divorced friend what was the happiness secret for her subsequent marriage which lasted twenty years. She replied “Because we each had our separate houses.” Please read more   https://www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/new-trend-in-life-after-divorce/