What States Allow a Common Law Marriage?


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When living with a romantic partner, it is possible for common law marriages to occur through time that may affect both parties in different ways. However, when the relationship ends, it is important for each common law spouse to know how to dissolve the marriage so that there is no negative impact from the situation.

While common law marriages do exist, they often have several myths attached to them. Many believe that a person is able to become legally married to another simply by living with him or her for seven years. However, there are only a few states that possess these processes, and some of them do not require any more than a single year. However, both parties must live as if they are already married to each other. They usually need to intend to become married at some point. Once the common law causes a legal marriage in this manner, the treatment the couple receives is similar to a traditional marriage in any state in the country. In these instances, when the relationship ends, both must file for divorce.

The States that Recognize Common Law Marriage

While a few states consider common law marriages legal, if the couple travels to another state where the law does not exist, they are still treated as if legally wed together. Some states only recognize these laws before a certain year such as Alabama in 2017, Georgia in 1997, Idaho in 1996, Ohio in 1991 and Pennsylvania in 2005. If any of these states have couples living together in the same manner after these years, there is no common law marriage. The other states to recognize these situations at any point would include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire for inheritance only, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Common Law Marriage Specifics

The usual processes that occur in a legal marriage with the local government certificate do not always apply to common law marriages. Even though the couple must have an intention to actually wed at some point, the names do not change, and other benefits may not be available in these situations such as tax advantages. The legal paperwork does not exist unless the couple go to a local office to make the marriage completely legal in the traditional manner. Without the records supplied to other government entities, no state issued identification has any change applied.

To dissolve the relationship, it is still important to seek a divorce. This is necessary based on the legally bound status of the couple. Even though the marriage is through common law processes, a traditional divorce would need to commence if the relationship ends. It is usually crucial to hire a lawyer for dividing property and when there are children affected. Visitation and custody arrangements may need court judgments if the couple are unable to come to an understanding outside of the courtroom. Hiring a family law or divorce lawyer is often the first step in dissolving the relationship and ensuring all legal bindings are no longer in effect.

The Divorce for Common Law Marriage

It is usually important to hire a divorce or family law lawyer when dissolving a relationship with legally binding implications. While it best to resolve child custody and visitation between the two parties, a lawyer may assist in these matters as well. The emotional end of a marriage may cause conflict and arguments between spouses. The lawyers hired for these situations may provide counsel and advice in moving forward. The legal professional may also support the spouse in acquiring spousal support payments. These are possible when one party is unable to cope with the financial loss to the household without the otherís income. There are numerous factors at play with this support.

While other states may not recognize common law marriages inside the state boundaries, these locations do recognize the legal bindings a common law marriage causes. To dissolve the relationship after moving, a divorce is still necessary. These other areas consider opposite-sex marriages legal even if the common law aspect is not part of local laws. Then, the couple must legally divorce to end the marriage.

Legal Support in Common Law Marriage

Whether the couple need assistance with a common law issue or need to divorce, a lawyer should become part of the process to protect the rights of the spouse. This may include child custody, support payments or a complete dissolution of the relationship. The legal representative may help end the marriage legally.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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