Can you really just tell people that you are married without going through the legal process? The answer to this question is more complex, but yes. In some states common law marriage is still legal, and one of the main indicators of a common law marriage is that you "hold yourselves out" as a married couple. Read on and learn a bit more about this uncommon way to be legally married.
You Must Fit the Profile
The number of states that still recognize common law marriage seems to be dwindling, but the ones that do have regulations dealing with the issue. You will find that many of these provisions are the same as the ones for a traditional legal marriage. Along with living together, the couple must:
- Not be married to anyone else, common law or otherwise
- Be of legal age to be married
- Of a sound mind and not mentally or physically incapacitated
- Be in agreement as to their status of being common law married, and present themselves to the community, their family and their place of worship as being married.
Understanding Common Law Divorces
Lest you think that being common law married is a less formal way to be in a relationship, you might be surprised to find that the law takes these relationships very seriously. You cannot insist to others that you are in a common law marriage, and then just pretend that it never happened when the time comes to part ways. If you fit the profile for a common law marriage, then you must also get legally divorced. There is no such thing as a common law divorce, however. The way to end a common law marriage is the same as one to end a traditional marriage.
When the Parties Disagree
Often, there is something "uncommon" about a common law married couple's take on the marriage. Those who prefer to just part ways without any fuss or muss may allege that there never was a common law marriage. On the other hand, property, debt, child custody and more issues may be involved, and these issues may require a court to decide upon them. The judge may use a few indicators to determine the validity of any marriage, such as:
1. Time lived together
2. Use of a common last name
3. Children of the relationship
4. Filling status for taxes (married filing jointly)
5. Real estate ownership by the couple
When it comes to a divorce involving such marriages, it can be even more problematic than that of a traditional marriage. Speak to a divorce attorney, such as from McKone & Unruh, to learn more.