There is a lot of confusion about common-law marriages, and simply assuming that you are in a common-law marriage is not the legal standard. If you have questions or concerns about common-law marriage, consulting with an experienced Florence divorce attorney is well-advised.
Are We Married?
A common-law marriage refers to an informal marriage in which you did not go through the formalities of becoming married, but living together for many years – on its own – does not translate to a marriage in the eyes of the law. In fact, for your relationship to be a common-law marriage, there are three elements that must be present.
One: You and Your Partner Must Agree on the Point
In order to be classified as being in a common-law marriage, you and your partner must have agreed at a specific point in time on the issue of marriage. This does not mean that you agreed you would enter a common-law marriage at a later date but that you agreed in real time you would be married from that point onward. Being engaged to marry and intending to marry do not satisfy this element.
Two: You Lived Together as a Married Couple
In order for your relationship to qualify as a common-law marriage, you and your partner must have lived together as a married couple, which amounts to more than simply sharing the same residence and having a romantic relationship. This second element refers to maintaining a household together – and everything that comes with that (doing the things that other married couples do).
Three: Holding Yourselves Out as Married
The third element in the process is that you must hold yourselves out to others in the community as married. This means that you must have referred to yourselves or introduced yourselves to others as a married couple. It is not enough to privately consider yourselves married; you must have shared this information (in some capacity) with others. Holding out in this sense can go beyond words to include actions. Consider the following examples:
Changing your last name to your partner’s last name (or simply using your partner’s last name as your own)
Signing a credit card or loan application as a married couple
Signing a guest book at a wedding, reception, or funeral as a married couple
Your Common-Law Marriage
If you can demonstrate that each of these elements is true for your relationship, you have a common-law marriage, which went into effect at the earliest date upon which all three elements are established to have been present.
Do Not Put off Consulting with an Experienced Florence Divorce Attorney
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a Florence divorce attorney with the experience and legal insight to skillfully advocate for your financial rights in the form of a fair division of your community property. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.