A common law relationship may not be legal, but it is very much real. The love, the compassion, the longing is there, even if there isn’t a marital contract binding a relationship.
For couples who do not want to get married, often choose to stay in live-in relationships, or end up having a common law marriage. This practice is getting widely common in the country. Here are some of the details you need to know.
Common Law Marriage
A common law marriage is without the white dresses and tuxedos, without the ‘i dos’ and certainly without a marriage license. This is like an unofficial marriage, where if two people are living together for years, they start to mention themselves as spouses for the world, without actually getting married.
This is a common practice in many states, but without a marriage certificate the relationship isn’t legal. And no, for a couple who lives together for a while doesn’t automatically get married- that scenario is not common law marriage. Let’s get into more details about what it is.
Common Law Marriage Requirements
For your relationship to be considered as common law marriage, there are certain requirements:
- You must live together (amount of time varies by state).
- You both must have the legal right or “capacity to marry”.
- Both must be 18 years old (varies by State).
- Both must be mentally stable.
- Both must not be married to someone else.
- You both must intend to be married.
- You both must hold yourself out to friends and family as being a married couple.
- Taking the same last name.
- Referring to each other in public as “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse.”
- Holding joint bank accounts/credit cards.
If all of these requirements are a must to be considered a common law marriage.
How to Prove Common Law Marriage?
Since a common law marriage does not have a marriage certificate or a license, there is nothing substantial to prove whether there is a marriage or not.
However, there are still some documents that can be used to prove that the common law marriage is intact, such as:
- Shared ownership of residential property
- Joint leases or rental agreements
- Bills for shared utility accounts, such as:
- joint utility accounts
- Important documents for both of you showing the same address, such as:
- driver’s licenses
- insurance policies
- Identification documents
Of course, states where these aren’t legal will not recognize these documents and still may not deem you as a married couple. You could take your chances!
Common Law Marriage Kentucky
Kentucky is one of those states that doesn’t identify with common law marriages. To be considered a legal couple, you must be legally married, with the traditional customs and actually obtaining a marriage certificate.
No matter for how long you and your significant other have been living together, or even have shared documents and accounts, Kentucky doesn’t recognize common law marriage. So you have to actually get married to enjoy legal perks that come with your marital status.
What is a Common Law Spouse entitled to?
When you end a common law relationship, there are lots of legal issues that come into place. For instance, if you separate, there will be a child custody issue if you have children. That means hiring a divorce attorney and going through the conventional process of divorce.
If one person from the relationship dies, the surviving partner cannot automatically assume inheritance of property because there wasn’t a legal relationship in the first place. That being said, the case will certainly be different if you both have joint-property or joint tax accounts.
Of course, a common law relationship couple will not enjoy the same benefits and legal support as that of a married couple. And it all depends if common law marriage is legal in your state or not. If it is not, you’re being treated like an unmarried couple in the eyes of the law. To summarize, a common law spouse is entitled to the relationship as an equal, but as soon as legal things get involved, there aren’t any benefits for you. To receive legal marital benefits (while in the relationship or while separating), you must be legally married and have a valid marriage certificate.
Common Law Marriage Divorce
There is no such thing as a common law divorce, whether you are married in the conventional style or common law, the divorce process is going to be the same. You will have to prove that there was a common law marriage in the first place and then file for divorce.
This means hiring a divorce attorney, sorting out custody and child support, alimony and other various aspects. The process will be the same and you will go through the same legal obligations.
Not all states recognize common law marriages, especially Kentucky, which only recognizes the traditional form of marriage with a conventional marriage certificate. Thus, in states that common law marriage is not recognized, the common law spouse is not entitled to any legal affairs especially when they split up: property, inheritance, accounts etc.