Common Law Marriage

a common law couple cooking togetherThe way relationships and marriage are handled in society today is changing rapidly.  Although just a few short decades ago there was a serious social stigma against residing with someone who was not your spouse, that taboo has largely fallen away.  Another concept that continues to change is common law marriage.  Common law marriage is an old idea that many people are familiar with.  To form a common law marriage, the couple typically would have to reside together for a certain number of years with the intention of being husband and wife and also hold themselves out as being married.  However, in Minnesota, common law marriage was eliminated by the legislature in 1941.  In other words, in Minnesota, no matter how long you reside with someone in this state and no matter how many times you represent to others that you are married, this can never create a binding marriage.  In order to be married in Minnesota, you have to actually obtain a marriage license and have the union solemnized by the appropriate authority, such as a preacher or a judge.  There is a major exception to this rule, however.  If you established a common law marriage in a state which does recognize common law marriage, then Minnesota may recognize you and your common law spouse as married.

The fact that you are not married to your partner can have serious effects.  If you are not married, you are not eligible for spousal maintenance.  Moreover, you will not be able to ask for the same type of division of marital property as in a divorce.  Where one party has been a stay-at-home parent for years, this can have serious ramifications.  There are some remedies available to separating couples who were never married in some limited circumstances when it comes to property.  For example, if the couple jointly owns a home and they are both on the title, they may still be able to seek assistance from the court to have their interest in the home divided.  It should also be noted that regardless of marriage, the court can and will make a decision about custody and child support.  The way that a court approaches these two issues will not be impacted by whether or not the couple has ever been married.

We have helped many clients with complex family law matters both with and without marriage.  Call us today to set up an appointment to talk about your unique situation.

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