Common-law marriages are unions recognized when two people share a dwelling for a period of time, have children together, or otherwise lead the lives of a legally married couple. There are legal stipulations to be determined if the couple decides to separate.
Do You Have a Common Law Marriage?
- Before deciding if a common-law separation agreement is needed, a couple needs to determine if they have a common-law marriage. In the United States, only 15 states and the District of Columbia recognize common-law marriages. Canada does not recognize common-law marriages. Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah accept common-law marriages. Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Ohio accept the marriages with tight stipulations. Generally, a common-law marriage is an arrangement between two people who agree to be married to each other, live together, and present themselves to others as husband and wife. Check state laws for specific state requirements.
Legal Aspect of Common Law Marriages
- A union that is recognized as a common-law marriage must be regarded as a legal union. Divorce or separation proceedings must be handled as if the couple had been married by ceremony and acquired a marriage license. A court will make the final decision regarding the separation agreement in a common-law marriage.
Reasons for Separation
- The decision to separate should not be taken lightly. When couples choose to separate before proceeding with divorce, they are attempting to work out details of divorce, such as alimony, child support and division of property. Separation can be a trial period preceding divorce. The court will treat a separation between common-law couples as a separation between legally married couples, since common-law couples need to acquire separation documents as a legally married couple.
Dividing Assets and Determining Visitation
- Common-law spouses attempting to draft a separation agreement should obtain a lawyer, as the agreement is a legally binding document. Sometimes, couples who agree to seek a separation can agree between themselves on dividing assets and sharing the children’s time. Consulting a lawyer will assist separating couples in creating paperwork to legally finalize the division of their assets as a common-law couple.