A 'MYTH which has passed into folklore’ surrounding the rights of couples living together is causing anguish and chaos in people’s lives, warns a Ledbury family law expert.

Wayne Phillips, head of family law at DF Legal, said beliefs surrounding the rights of co-habiting couples is leading to the lives of many being thrown into turmoil after relationship break-ups.

“It is a sad state of affairs, which we see too much of" said Mr Phillips, whose firm has branches in Ledbury, Tewkesbury, Stroud, andCheltenham.

“There has been myth for many years about common-law rights that living together for a period of time provides legal rights, which has passed into folklore, but this myth needs to be stamped out,” he added.

Mr Phillips comments come after a new survey by Co-Op Legal Services showed that since 1996 the numbers of couples who co-habit has more than doubled to six million, with a quarter of those surveyed having no desire to either marry or enter a civil partnership.

“If a couple get together and one has equity in the home, the person who has moved in will have no rights when they go their separate ways unless he or she can prove they have made a financial contribution,” he said.

“When it comes to property really it is best that the two names go onto the deeds,” he added.

Mr Phillips said seeing a solicitor to get a document called a deed of trust drawn up early in the relationship was a sensible step to make, or even make a will. He also advised the couples are open about their situation.

“Right from the beginning you have to discuss the finances and not just trust all will be roses in the garden,” he said. “We’ve seen so many people in a terrible state because of failing to take a few simple steps early on.

“This myth must be stamped out as it’s so harmful and it’s up to legal professionals to do this.”