So you"ve sầu been with your partner for a long time. It"s time to lớn start considering yourselves common-law married, a sort of "marriage-like" status that triggers when you"ve lived together for seven years. Right?

Nope. That"s all bogus.quý khách hàng đang xem: Comtháng law marriage là gì

For one, common-law marriage, which traces its roots to old English law, isn"t a nationwide thing. It exists in only a small number of states. Unless you live sầu in one of those states, getting hitched will involve an official "I do" ceremony. Alabama had been one of the states that recognize common-law marriages, but it recently moved to abolish it, a trkết thúc that has been taking place nationwide for years.

Bạn đang xem: Common law marriage là gì

Also, that common-law marriage kicks in after partners live sầu together for a certain period of time? That"s a flat-out myth.

"By far the most comtháng number is seven years," says family law professor Marsha Garrison of Brooklyn Law School. "I"ve never figured out where that may have come from and why it"s seven years."

Couples may eschew a formal, licensed marriage for any number of reasons, lượt thích hesitating to make a public commitment or never getting around to lớn making it official. That means you may be passing on the big expensive các buổi tiệc nhỏ or the dreamy walk down the aisle, but common-law marriage is as real and legal as marriage gets. It means you are eligible for all of the economic & legal goodies afforded to lớn couples with marriage licenses — lượt thích tax breaks và inheritance rights.

But if you break up, you need to lớn get divorced. As in, a traditional divorce. There is no common-law divorce.

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And that can be tricky.

That"s because showing a couple"s marital intention often comes down khổng lồ one partner"s word against the other. For a status assumed khổng lồ kiông xã in by something as passive as the passage of time, it can be surprisingly complicated to lớn prove sầu. Small, intimate details of a couple"s life wind up as facts a judge examines.

To enter into lớn a common-law marriage, a couple generally has khổng lồ satisfy these requirements: be eligible to lớn be married and cohabitate in one of the places that recognize common-law marriage, intend to be married and hold themselves out in public as a married couple. In other words, a couple who lives together for a day, a week, a year — states don"t have sầu a time requirement — agrees khổng lồ be married and tells family and friends they are.

Where is common-law marriage allowed?

Here are the places that recognize common-law marriage: Coloravì chưng, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only), Oklahoma, Rhode Isl&, South Carolina, Texas, Utah & the District of Columbia.

Other states that had at one time had common-law marriage statutes recognize them if entered into before the date they were abolished. They are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Idaho, Georgia, Florida — and starting next year, Alabama.

If a couple in a common-law marriage moves to a new state, the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution requires their common-law marriage be recognized even if that state doesn"t ordinarily allow them.


"Usually it"s the economically disadvantaged partner who wants lớn argue that, "Yes, we were married," và the partner says no," says Michele Zavos, a family lawyer, who practices in Washington, D.C., where common-law marriages are recognized.

That"s how it played out before a judge in Rhode Island in a case decided in the spring.

Angela & Kevin had been together for 23 years. (We"re not using their last names because this story is about their case and not the couple.) According lớn the judge"s decision, "Angela saw Kevin kissing another woman, which in turn prompted Angela lớn throw Kevin out of the house." Angela argued the couple had agreed khổng lồ be married bachồng in 1995 và present themselves as husb& và wife lớn family & friends. Kevin testified that they did not have a marital commitment.

"We vacationed together, we had family portraits, family parties, interacted with my family, his family," Angela toldđiện thoại. "I have sầu a sister who"s been married and together with her husb& just as long as I & Kevin were, & we live sầu lives just lượt thích they did."

But Angela had khổng lồ prove that in court because there was no marriage certificate khổng lồ point khổng lồ. "I didn"t have that legal document," she says.

Angela, citing irreconcilable differences, sought half of their shared house and its contents as well as half of both Kevin"s retirement accounts và the value of his life insurance policy.

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There were still other details entered as evidence, according to lớn the ruling: A greeting thẻ from Kevin"s mother to lớn Angela referred to her as a daughter-in-law. A message from Kevin"s sister called Angela a sister-in-law. A Christmas thẻ addressed them as "Mr. and Mrs."

Still, the ruling shows that though Kevin insisted the couple may have been engaged at one point, they never made it official & that he never considered himself married khổng lồ her. He argued that though a photograph showed hlặng wearing what the judge called a "typical wedding band" on his left hand, he simply liked the ring, not that it signified marriage. The decision carefully articulates how they generally kept separate finances & never filed joint taxes.

The trial khổng lồ determine whether they had a common-law marriage lasted a year và a half. In her ruling, Asquith concluded "by clear and convincing evidence" that Angela & Kevin had been married by comtháng law since 1995.

"Essentially they took care of each other, financially, emotionally, medically và in every way where one would expect a husbvà and wife khổng lồ consider their spouse," Asquith wrote.

Kevin has filed a motion khổng lồ appeal, & through his lawyer, said he preferred khổng lồ bình luận for a story after that decision has been made.

"It"s not so clear"

There"s no formula or algorithm for determining a common-law marriage, and that can be confusing for courts.

"The reasons why states lượt thích celebratory marriages, statutory marriages is because there is a fine line: You"re either married or you"re not. With comtháng law, it"s not so clear," Zavos says. "You always have sầu to lớn go and prove sầu và there"s always this uncertainty. The law doesn"t lượt thích uncertainty. The law likes bright lines. So I think more & more states are recognizing that and getting rid of it."

It"s a legal relic left over, in this country, from the early days of the American colonies và from old ideas about marriage & couples that live sầu together. Bachồng then, traveling khổng lồ find someone khổng lồ officiate a wedding was difficult, & cohabitating & having children out of wedlochồng was socially unacceptable. Common-law marriage gave those couples legitimacy và a way to pass on property.

"Today actually common-law marriage is becoming less comtháng as a category because it"s so easy to lớn cohabit without offending your neighbors," says Garrison, the law professor.

Common-law marriages have sầu also tended to lớn help women, who were often economically dependent on their partners. That legacy continues today.

"A very typical context would be a woman has lived with a man and has been totally financially dependent on hlặng. He"s the one who"s been earning money, she"s been doing the housework. very traditional kind of relationship, but they never officially got married," says Jill Hasday, family law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. ", she"s not entitled to any Social Security benefits because that"s all through paid work. If they were legally married, she could collect spousal benefits or if he"s dead, widow"s benefits. But because they were not officially married, she gets nothing."

However, that presents an especially tough challenge.

"That"s why many states became hostile khổng lồ common-law marriage," Garrison says. "The other "spouse" is not there khổng lồ give sầu his or her version of events."

In Alabama, an appeals judge argued earlier this year that she"d had enough of the legal murkiness of common-law marriages, especially given how easy it is in the modern era lớn get legally married. "In my view, no need for common-law marriage exists," Judge Terri Willingyêu thích Thomas wrote in a dissenting opinion of a divorce case. The cases, she argued, have taxed the court system for too long.

"Common-law marriage should not be encouraged or tolerated when a bright-line standard for determining marital status is readily available. The legislature, by its silence, should not require the courts of this state to lớn continue khổng lồ struggle to lớn separate fraudulent claims of marriage from valid ones when requiring parties who wish khổng lồ enter inkhổng lồ a marital relationship to lớn obtain a marriage certificate would decisively solve sầu the problem."

Bright lines for modern couples

So as couples live together in record numbers, should the unwitting common-law marriage be a concern? For couples who live together in states with common-law marriages và want their wishes lớn remain unmarried khổng lồ be unambiguous, partners can write and sign a document stating their intentions to stay unmarried.

Still, the changing face of the modern couple is shaping new laws designed to lớn create some legal protections.

"All around the world cohabitation is increasing và you"re seeing a huge variety of legislative sầu schemes are developed lớn respond to this," Garrison says.

For example, Washington state offers couples in committed, cohabitating relationships that break up property rights similar khổng lồ those afforded to married couples. If a couple in one of these "committed intimate relationships" separates, a court can help equally divide shared property & assets.

In Norway, couples who live together and have children together are also given some marriage-lượt thích rights. Norwegian inheritance laws were changed in 2008 so that couples with children could receive sầu up lớn $34,000 if their partner dies without having written a will.

"Cohabitation has during the last decades been widely accepted in society in Norway; about a quarter of the couples (or a fifth of all grownups) cohabit, & more than half of the children are today born before their parents (eventually) marry," Katrine Fredwall, who helped write the law, says in an tin nhắn to lớn "To take on a more or less unpaid workload while caring for children, being the homemaker or working part-time, made in particular the mothers vulnerable and in need for protection by the law."

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