Although you might have never walked down the aisle with your partner, the two of you might have established a life together and lived together just like a married couple would. Unfortunately, though, things might not be going very well now, and the two of you might be planning on going your separate ways. You could be wondering about getting separated or going through a divorce when you have a not-so-traditional marriage. These are some of the things you’ll need to know if you are in a common-law marriage and want to break up.
Your Relationship May Not Be Considered a Common-Law Marriage
Common-law marriage isn’t anything new. The concept actually dates back to ancient Rome, and it was adopted by American courts many years ago. In fact, it was not until the 1800s that states began creating laws that prevented couples from getting married without having a ceremony and meeting other certain requirements.
Despite the fact that common-law marriage has been around for a very long time, there are actually a lot of misconceptions. For example, some people assume that common-law marriage exists in every state, but this is not the case. Some assume that you only have to live with someone for a certain number of years before you are considered to be involved in a common-law marriage, but this is usually not the case, either. Simply having children together does not establish a common-law marriage, which is another common misconception.
Before you proceed with your case, you should look into the laws in your state. First, you’ll want to make sure that you do actually live in a state that recognizes common-law marriages. This is less common than you might think; many states do not recognize common-law marriages at all, and some only recognize them in very specific situations. Alternatively, if you and your spouse established your relationship in a state where common-law marriages are recognized, then your marriage should be recognized in your current state, even if the state does not recognize common-law marriages itself. This is because most states do recognize marriages from other states.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that your relationship actually meets the criteria for a common-law marriage in your state. For example, same-sex couples might be able to use a retroactive law to claim a common-law marriage. Also, many states require you to live together and present yourself as a married couple throughout your relationship in order for your common-law marriage to be valid.
You’ll Still Go Through Regular Divorce Courts
You could be wondering if there is a special process that you have to go through when getting a divorce. There is actually no such thing as a “common-law divorce.” If your relationship is considered a common-law marriage, then you will go through the same separation and divorce process as any married couple in your state.
It pays to do a little research about divorce laws in your state. You might be required to be legally separated for a certain period of time before you can file for divorce, for example. It’s important to know about these requirements before you go to court. This will help you handle your divorce as quickly and smoothly as possible, which is probably important to you when you’re preparing to move on with your life.
Your Spouse Could Deny the Common-Law Marriage
One common problem that people in this situation often face is dealing with a spouse who denies their common-law marriage. With a more traditional marriage, you have the legal documentation to prove that you are married. With a common-law marriage, it is a bit harder to prove your relationship. This could have more of an impact on the dissolution of your relationship than you think.
If you’re wondering why your spouse might deny your common-law marriage, the answer is simple: they might do so in hopes that they will not have to split any money or assets with you. This could lead to you not getting the money or property that you are entitled to in the split-up.
There are ways that you can fight back, of course. If you can provide documentation that helps establish your case, then it might help you in court. For example, copies of leases or mortgage deeds that show both of your names, banking statements for joint accounts and other similar documents may help you prove that you are in a well-established, long-term, marriage-like relationship with your spouse. Make sure that you gather as much supporting information as you can if you’re concerned that your spouse will deny your marriage.
Child Custody Issues Should Be Handled the Same Way
If you and your common-law spouse have children together, you might be concerned about how matters of child custody will be handled. After all, losing custody of your children might be something that you are very nervous about.
The good news is that child custody issues among couples that are in a common-law marriage typically are not handled any differently from any other child custody case. In fact, people go to family court for matters related to child custody all the time, even if they aren’t married and even if they were never in a long-term relationship in the first place.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t take child custody matters seriously. However, when going through a tough situation like you are right now, you might be glad that you will not be facing any additional challenges. Still, make sure that you are well-prepared for court so that you can adequately fight for your rights as a parent.
Separation and divorce are never easy. If you are a part of a common-law marriage, there may be additional challenges for you to worry about. It’s important to be well-prepared for handling your divorce, but you shouldn’t necessarily hire a divorce lawyer. Instead, give us a call at National Family Solutions. We can provide you with resources and information to help you handle your case properly without having to hire an expensive attorney.