In some states, couples who live together and act as a married couple are considered living in a common-law marriage situation. A common law marriage is essentially the relationship of a marriage without the legal paperwork required for a legal marriage. If you are in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you may have some questions, including the following:
1. Do You Have the Same Benefits as a Legally Married Couple?
In a common-law marriage, you and your partner do have similar benefits as those in a legal marriage. For example, you each are eligible to receive social security benefits and your partner's employer benefits. You are entitled to marital exemptions for each other's estates. You can also be the medical power of attorney for each other and can inherit your partner's property.
2. Should You Create a Cohabitation Agreement?
Although some states recognize common law marriage, you may still want to have a cohabitation agreement drawn up to protect yourselves just in case. In some states, common law marriage is rare, so the legalities and benefits you are entitled to can be misunderstood by those who are not well-versed in this area. If you run into an issue and you meet resistance based on the legal nature of your relationship, you could each face difficulties when it comes to making major decisions with your property, medical decisions, and so on. A cohabitation agreement can help prevent any problems you may face.
A cohabitation agreement is a document recognized legally in most states which makes sure that you each remain protected should the relationship end. You will be protected whether you end the relationship by choice or if one of you passes away.
Your cohabitation agreement should address a wide variety of issues, such as who is responsible for rent or mortgage payments, what happens to your property at the end of your relationship, who pays which bills, and how you handle custody of your shared children. It should also outline how you will handle child support, who pays which debts, and whether or not one of you will pay or receive alimony.
3. What Happens if You Have Issues?
If you have any problems with enforcing your rights as a common-law marriage partner in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you should seek out a family attorney who is familiar with this area of the law. You have the same rights as any other married couple, and your attorney will work to make sure you receive what you legally entitled to.