Taking A Closer Look At Common-Law Marriage From A Legal Perspective

For a myriad of reasons, two people often cohabitate without ever seeking a marriage license or legally recognized union. Even though you may not have a document proving that you are married to another person, you may spend every day of your life living as a married couple--living in the same home, sharing financial responsibilities, or even raising your children. Even though from your own personal standpoint this is perfectly your choice, this type of lifestyle can bring about some complications when the two of you go your separate ways. Here are a few of the most frequent questions concerning common-law marriage and cohabitation laws.

Do all states recognize a common-law marriage?

One of the biggest misconceptions about common-law and cohabitation is that this is something that is present everywhere. However, few states actually recognize a common-law marriage. Of the 50 states, only eight actually have a common-marriage law, but some had common-marriage laws in the past that have been abolished. If you live in a state where common marriage laws used to exist but do not anymore, there will only be recognition if the cohabitation began before the laws were abolished. Additionally, each state has their own criteria for establishing a common-law marriage. For example, some states require that two people were 18 when the cohabitation began before the marriage may be recognized. 

How can you protect yourself if you live in a state that does recognize common-law marriage?

Even though common-law marriage laws can be a good thing for aspects of cohabitation, such as obtaining joint loans or insurance, it does bring about concerns if you and your partner separate. In a common-law state, legally, your partner could have a right to half of everything that you own or a portion of your earnings. To protect yourself from this kind of situation, it is best to obtain a written agreement overseen by a family law professional that clearly defines what you own or are entitled to at some point in the cohabitation with the other party. 

If you are in a common law relationship, whether it is or is not recognized by the state where you live, talk to a family law representative (like those at the Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC) to find out what you can do to keep your personal property protected. If you have questions about what is recognized as a common-law marriage in your state, the professional can offer you valuable guidance to understanding.