Many people assume that the concept of common-law marriage is a thing of the past, but this way to be married still exists in some locations. Another widely-held misconception about common-law marriage is that you must live together for a certain amount of time to call yourself married. In fact, the requirement to cohabit is just one of many common law marriage requirements. Read on to learn more about this unique form of marriage.
More Than Just Cohabitation
In the states that recognize common-law marriage, there are several more factors to consider than just living under one roof for a certain period time, such as:
- Old enough to be legally married (in that state).
- Not already wed to another.
- Of sound mind (not incapacitated by mental illness or in a coma).
- Be of the same intention: to be considered married by both parties in the couple.
- "Hold themselves out" (or represent themselves) to be married to everyone, including the family, the community, the church, and more.
- Filing of tax returns using the "married filing jointly" status.
Getting Divorced When Common-Law Married
While common-law marriages may represent the appearance of a more casual relationship, the law sees common-law marriages that are legal to be something more. If you and your common-law spouse wish to part ways, you cannot do so as easily as you came live together in the first place. As a concept, there is no such thing as a common-law divorce—there is simply divorce, and you must follow the same rules and guidelines as those who have been wed in the traditional manner.
A major issue with those who are in common-law marriages is the discrepancy in spouses over whether or not a common-law marriage actually exists. The motivation behind this disagreement over marital status usually has a lot to do with the division of property and debt and the issue of spousal support. When left up to a family court judge, the issue may be decided by evaluating:
- Length of time the couple lived together.
- Whether or not the couple used the same last name.
- Whether or not the couple raised children together.
- Whether or not the couple owned real estate together.
- Whether or not the couple filed joint tax returns together.
Disentangling the marital ties of common-law marriage can be just as complication, if not more so, than that of a traditional marriage. Speak with a family law attorney today about your common-law marriage situation.