IT'S A COMMON LAW MISTAKE; Moves to Kill off Urban Myth

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Byline: By Ben Spencer

A CAMPAIGN to eliminate the phrase "common-law marriage" from official English has been launched. A legal advice group warned the phrase has no legal standing anywhere in the UK, including under Scots law, yet is regularly misused in official forms.

It also features in a host of popular dictionaries, even though common-law marriage is an "urban myth", said the Living Together organisation.

A survey of 1000 people for Living Together showed 67 per cent mistakenly believed that couples who lived together for a period became "common-law husband and wife".

But disastrous situations can arise from assuming that cohabitation gives each partner the same legal rights as marriage, the group said.

Living Together spokeswoman Mary Webber said: "It's time for use of the term to be cut out.

"The notion of common-law marriage is a persistent myth which can lead to serious financial loss and emotional distress.

"Usage of the term perpetuates the myth, which is damaging to many couples in the UK, because they believe they have rights that they don't have.

"There are plenty of steps cohabiting couples can take to protect themselves but many people fail to realise that they are necessary. …