It’s a commonly held belief that a couple who lives together for a set period is married even if they haven’t filed paperwork to make it official. While about one-quarter of states recognizes common-law marriages, they are more complex than long-term living arrangements. If one hopes to skip the formality of a conventional marriage, it may be beneficial to learn how common-law marriages work.
General Requirements for Common-Law Marriage
Contrary to popular belief, people don’t just wake up to find out they’re suddenly married. A common-law marriage has certain requirements, such as:
- Partners must live together
- Partners must present themselves as married, or file a joint tax return
- The couple must live together for a predetermined amount of time
- Partners must plan to marry eventually
If a couple meets these requirements, they may be considered to be married; however, not all jurisdictions recognize common-law marriages from other states, meaning that a common-law couple could move to a state that does not consider them to be legally married. A divorce lawyer in Martinsburg, WV can tell couples whether their common-law marriage is recognized by the state.
Governmental Agencies and Common-Law Marriage
While having legal validation of a marriage may be just a formality, things can become complex as the government gets involved. For example, a surviving spouse may only be able to receive Social Security benefits if they live in a common-law marriage state, and they can provide statements from blood relatives as well as other supporting evidence. It can be difficult to convince government agencies to recognize a common-law marriage, and some couples find it easier to get a marriage license and visit the justice of the peace to make it official.
The End of a Common-Law Marriage
While some areas still recognize common-law marriages, a common-law divorce is yet to exist. In these situations, couples must follow the same procedures and rules as other married couples. If a person isn’t sure whether a common-law marriage has been legally recognized, they should talk to a divorce lawyer in Martinsburg, WV who knows the legal consequences of terminating the living arrangement. Bottner & Skillman represent clients in various family law matters such as divorce, child custody & more.
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