A Newport-based legal expert has called on unmarried couples to take action to protect themselves, as they could be vulnerable if the relationship breaks down.

Sophie Hughes, head of the family law team at leading firm Watkins and Gunn, made the calls as part of national Cohabitation Awareness Week that is being led by Resolution, which campaigns for a fairer family justice system.

Cohabitation Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the lack of rights that exist for unmarried couples who live together.

There are about seven million people in the UK living in this type of relationship, making this the fastest growing family type in the country.

Mrs Hughes, the chairwoman of South Wales Resolution and partner at the firm, explained that most couples she worked with mistakenly believe that they acquire 'common law' rights after living with their partner for a certain amount of time or having children together.

She said: “The sad reality is that unmarried couples in South Wales have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other if the relationship breaks down.

“I regularly meet people who have been affected in this way, and because of the lack of legal protection, there are times when I simply can’t help them.

“This is why I urge all cohabiting couples in south Wales to consider taking out basic protections, such as a cohabitation agreement to protect both partners if they separate, or think about life insurance, and making a will. By setting out your intentions in these documents, you’ll be in a much better situation if the unexpected happens.

“They may have been living together for years, have children together and own property, but there is no such concept as a common law husband or wife.”