Despite its waning popularity, common-law marriages still exist and are perfectly legal in a few states. Being in a relationship with someone for a certain length of time, though, is not the only legal requirement for being in a common-law marriage. Read on and find out more.
What Are the Advantages of a Common Law Marriage?
Even if you've never purchased a marriage license or stood before a minister, you may benefit from being in a common-law marriage in the states that recognize it. Everyone knows that married people have a tax advantage over singletons but you have to be married (or common-law married) to claim that status. In addition, being married allows you certain next-of-kin privileges when a loved one is hospitalized. Another issue is that while just living together won't provide you any help, being in a common-law marriage can provide survivors with benefits when dealing with a last will and testament and insurance issues.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Common-Law Marriage?
While one of the main requirements for being in a common-law marriage is that both parties must agree that they are married, that status may be in jeopardy when it comes time to part ways. If you have held yourself out to be common law married, you must go through the proper legal channels when splitting up. That means a legal divorce. When marital debt and property come into the equation, you can imagine that one party might claim common-law status while the other disagrees. The party that disagrees might the one with the most to lose if property and debt divisions followed the laws of the state.
What Makes Common-Law Marriage Legit?
Each state that recognizes common law marriage has unique rules but most of them use the following common rules. Both parties must be:
- Not already married to another.
- Of legal age to marry.
- Of sound mind.
- Of the same mind (they both agree that they are married).
- Representing themselves as married to the surrounding community, family, place of worship, on tax returns, etc.
As mentioned above, it's necessary to procure a divorce when a common-law relationship ends. In most cases, the law doesn't differentiate between common law or traditional divorces when it comes to the law. Just as with a traditional divorce, one party has the right to divorce the other regardless of how the other feels about it. Whoever files might have an uncontested say about property and debt if the other party fails to respond to the petition. Children are another matter, however. You don't have to be married (or ever married) to have custody disputes and for child support to be ordered.
If you are involved in a common-law marriage and want a divorce, speak to a divorce lawyer who understands common law situations in your state.