Changing the Locks – how to be left out in the cold without a Living Together Agreement
It may be unimaginable that a father would want to change the locks on the mother of his children, with whom he has been cohabiting with for years whilst she cares for their family as a stay-at-home-mum.
But for him to change the locks on the family home whilst his live-in partner is in hospital giving birth to another of their children, is even harder to believe. But it’s happening in the UK, right now.
Changing the locks on the mother of your children – legally
The real shock to many of us – including those who are currently cohabiting couples – will be the information that legally there was nothing to stop this father from locking his partner out of the family home. No marriage certificate. No Tenants in Common agreement. The mother’s name was not on the mortgage as she was not working – because she was at home (not HER home in the legal sense, but HIS home), bringing up THEIR family.
This is a real life example – taking place right now in 2014 – and shared with me in an interview by the solicitor who is dealing with the case. Mediator and Arbitrator Nadia Beckett of Beckett Solicitors LLP explains the down-sides of not being married when you have a family to care for, and also what you can do about it, in this short video:
More likely to be abused
Statistically, women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than wives to be abused. In one study, marital status was the strongest predictor of abuse-ahead of race, age, education or housing conditions. (*)
However we may choose to explain these statistics, it seems clear to me that when you are in a relationship where you are vulnerable, that abuse of all kinds can easily follow. Locking a mother out of her family home is clearly an abusive act, leaving her homeless with a newborn baby – but the truth is she put herself in a vulnerable position by not being married, and not having any form of legal agreement to offer her protection.
“Ignorance is no excuse”
A lawyer on Linked In recently messaged me that ‘ignorance is no excuse’. Actually, I think it is very good excuse, if no-one has taken the trouble to tell you the information you need. Most people I talk to have no idea that Common Law Marriage is a myth, and that if they are to give up their career and become dependent on the father of their children without a marriage certificate to offer some basic protection, then the issue here is mass ignorance on a scale that indicates that just maybe, the State should intervene? At least to help spread the word?
Personally, I think the parents of every child born in this country should receive a free ‘Bounty Pack’ of key information, including a free download of a Living Together Agreement Life Plan.
As Nadia explains in the video interview, it is usually the women who suffer most. So perhaps it’s up to the women to share the news that without a Living Together / Cohabitation Agreement in place, having a family outside of wedlock could leave you not only potentially homeless if the relationship breaks down, but also without a pension, and no maintenance payments either.
(*) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 43, No. 8, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 4 March 1994.
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