In your mind, is common law marriage 100% equal to "regular" marriage?

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Posted 12/6/2012 by Captain K in NSBR Board
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myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:28:49 PM

I don't get it the whole idea of common law marriage, honestly. If you want to get married, get married. A couple does not have to have a wedding or spend much of anything in order to get legally married. If you choose not to get married, I presume you don't want to be married for any number of totally legitimate reasons.

I don't think a longterm couple who is not married is in some kind of inferior relationship, but it is different from marriage - a difference that the couple chooses. I don't understand why the government decides you're "common law married" if marriage is not what you affirmatively chose, for whatever reason.


That is not how CL marriage works AT ALL.

First of all, your second sentence is completely wrong. A CL marriage IS a "legal marriage".

The government does not "decide" that you are married. INTENT to be married is required. The actions of the couple makes them married.

You *do* have to "affirmatively choose" to be married in order to have a CL marriage.







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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:30:50 PM

Some states have never recognized common law marriages. These include Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.


Arkansas does not recognize common law marriage.So again no, I do not think it is the same thing. In my state, anyway.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:34:17 PM
No


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myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:35:54 PM

Arkansas does not recognize common law marriage.So again no, I do not think it is the same thing. In my state, anyway.


It is NOT that they are not the same thing. It is that there is no CL marriage. Huge difference. You can't compare the two if one doesn't exist.





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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:36:24 PM
Absolutely not!



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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:40:09 PM
In states that recognize common law marriage I think it is equal to "regular" marriage and maybe more so than "hey we've know each other for three days lets go to Vegas and get married" ones.




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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:40:54 PM
myshelly,

Question for you: If a couple lives in a state that has common law marriage and they fit the requirements, thus are married, what happens if they travel to a state where there is no common law marriage? Say they are on vacation in Oregon, where we don't have common law marriage, and one is in an accident and in a coma. Would the other be able to make medical decisions for the spouse who is incapacitated? Or would they only have standing to do so in other states that recognize common law marriage?

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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:41:44 PM

IF YOU LIVE IN A STATE THAT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE COMMON LAW MARRIAGE, there is no way to form a common law marriage, no matter how long you live with your partner. There is one catch: if you spend time in a state that does recognize common law marriage, "hold yourself out as married," and then return or move to a state that doesn't recognize it, you are still married (since states all recognize marriages that occurred in other states). However, this is murky legal territory and we don't recommend experimenting with it!

STATE-BY-STATE REQUIREMENTS TO FORM A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE:*
Alabama: The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) capacity; (2) an agreement to be husband and wife; and (3) consummation of the marital relationship.

Colorado: A common-law marriage may be established by proving cohabitation and a reputation of being married.

Iowa: The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) intent and agreement to be married; (2) continuous cohabitation; and (3) public declarations that the parties are husband and wife.

Kansas: For a man and woman to form a common-law marriage, they must: (1) have the mental capacity to marry; (2) agree to be married at the present time; and (3) represent to the public that they are married.
Montana: The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) capacity to consent to the marriage; (2) an agreement to be married; (3) cohabitation; and (4) a reputation of being married.

Oklahoma: To establish a common-law marriage, a man and woman must (1) be competent; (2) agree to enter into a marriage relationship; and (3) cohabit.

Pennsylvania: A common-law marriage was established if, before 1/1/2005, a man and woman exchanged words that indicated that they intended to be married at the present time and they also held themselves out to the community as married (introducing eachother as husband and wife, filing joint taxes, etc.).

Rhode Island: The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) serious intent to be married and (2) conduct that leads to a reasonable belief in the community that the man and woman are married.

South Carolina: A common-law marriage is established if a man and woman intend for others to believe they are married.

Texas: A man and woman who want to establish a common-law marriage must sign a form provided by the county clerk. In addition, they must (1) agree to be married, (2) cohabit, and (3) represent to others that they are married. (edited to add that I was informed that this may not be the case in TX, please research yourself if your are not sure of the laws in your state, the ones I posted are just a guideline for those wondering what they might be)

Utah: For a common-law marriage, a man and woman must (1) be capable of giving consent and getting married; (2) cohabit; and (3) have a reputation of being husband and wife.

Washington, D.C.: The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) an express, present intent to D.C. be married and (2) cohabitation.

* Source: It's Legal! Legal Information Network, whose website no longer exists. The Alternatives to Marriage Project is not responsible for omissions or inaccuracies in the above information.

Much of the information on this fact sheet comes from an excellent do-it-yourself legal guide called Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples, by attorneys Toni Ihara, Ralph Warner, and Frederick Hertz (2008).

Last updated August 2012.

There is some more info to help clear it up for some of you.

+++++edited to add that I was informed that this may not be the case in TX, please research yourself if your are not sure of the laws in your state, the ones I posted are just a guideline for those wondering what they might be.+++++


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myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:45:23 PM

Question for you: If a couple lives in a state that has common law marriage and they fit the requirements, thus are married, what happens if they travel to a state where there is no common law marriage? Say they are on vacation in Oregon, where we don't have common law marriage, and one is in an accident and in a coma. Would the other be able to make medical decisions for the spouse who is incapacitated? Or would they only have standing to do so in other states that recognize common law marriage?


The couple has full marriage rights in all 50 states.

States that recognize CL marriage do not make a distinction btwn CL marriage and ceremonial marriage.

If you have a valid marriage in Texas, you are still married when you travel to Oregon.






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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:45:50 PM
Myshelly - the question was 'in your mind' and '100% equal'. It was not a question about JUST the legal aspect of marriage. Otherwise, I would have merely cited Texas law (which does have cl marriages).

I had a church ceremony, beyond my legal requirements. I did that because, for me, a marriage involves more than just a legal recognition.


Jules

myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:47:52 PM
look4angel,

The info you posted in this thread is incorrect in regard to Texas. I cannot speak for the rest of it as I only practice law in Texas.







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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:48:30 PM

I had a church ceremony, beyond my legal requirements. I did that because, for me, a marriage involves more than just a legal recognition.


So do you consider those of us who were not married in a religious ceremony not as "married" as you?

myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:50:54 PM

Myshelly - the question was 'in your mind' and '100% equal'. It was not a question about JUST the legal aspect of marriage. Otherwise, I would have merely cited Texas law (which does have cl marriages).


My problem with that, as I have already stated, is that many people on this thread do not understand what CL marriage is. If you don't understand what it actually is, how can you have an opinion on it? I would just like people to be more informed.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:52:39 PM

States that recognize CL marriage do not make a distinction btwn CL marriage and ceremonial marriage.

If you have a valid marriage in Texas, you are still married when you travel to Oregon.

Interesting. Since it doesn't work that way with gay marriage, I wasn't sure how it would work with common law marriages in states where common law marriage is not permitted.

phdscrap
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:53:06 PM
Maureen - no. But I do think a marriage generally involves a public ceremony with friends and family. For my family, it has typically involved a religious aspect. Either way, I think the word marriage involves more than JUST legal aspects.


Jules

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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:56:07 PM
The above is why *I* think that it is not the same .. it is just too iffy. Where as if you put it on paper no one anyplace is going to ask any questions IYKWIM? Too many if and or buts.

That is just IMHO , I know that there are laws to just about everything but if I am committed to someone and they feel the same way about me I would like for that to be on paper so that when I die he can cremate me even though my DD is strongly opposed to that.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:57:00 PM
Yes. I grew up in California and now live in Colorado both common law states. I wonder if that influenced my opinion.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:57:06 PM

But I do think a marriage generally involves a public ceremony with friends and family.


Interesting, I think a marriage is more than wedding. A wedding is a day a marriage is a lifetime commitment.

myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:57:26 PM

Interesting. Since it doesn't work that way with gay marriage, I wasn't sure how it would work with common law marriages in states where common law marriage is not permitted.


There are many currently active court cases regarding whether other states are required to recognize a same sex marriage that is valid in one state. The legal question is FAR from settled.

The fact that CL marriages are given full rights in all 50 states is always used as an argument in favor of recognition of same state marriage rights in states that don't have same sex marriage.

It all has to do with the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution.




reneelcla
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:58:59 PM
In some states, like Texas, common law marriage especially where kids are involved has is the same as regular marriage legally.
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Posted: 12/6/2012 7:59:53 PM

There are many currently active court cases regarding whether other states are required to recognize a same sex marriage that is valid in one state. The legal question is FAR from settled.

Of course I understand that. We are still in the early days of gay marriage being legitimized. Presently, though, it's not required that they be recognized elsewhere.

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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:02:51 PM
Like another poster said about Oklahoma, in Texas the couple has to present themselves in public as husband & wife, like say "Joe I'd like you to meet my wife Jane."
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myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:03:42 PM

The above is why *I* think that it is not the same .. it is just too iffy. Where as if you put it on paper no one anyplace is going to ask any questions IYKWIM? Too many if and or buts.

That is just IMHO , I know that there are laws to just about everything but if I am committed to someone and they feel the same way about me I would like for that to be on paper so that when I die he can cremate me even though my DD is strongly opposed to that.


I find all these arguments about "a piece of paper" interesting.

In TX, and some other states, a CL couple *can* get a piece of paper that is the same as a marriage license (A Declaration of a Common Law Marriage). It comes from the same office (county clerk) and costs the same amount of money as a marriage license.

So, what does that do to your opinion of CL if you are so concerned about "the paper"?



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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:04:22 PM
I had to go to Google to get the definition of "common law marriage" because I wasn't sure exactly what is meant by that term. This is from Wikipedia:


The term common-law marriage is often used incorrectly to describe various types of domestic partnerships or to refer to cohabiting couples. Although these interpersonal statuses are often called "common-law marriage" they differ from true common law marriage in that they are not legally recognized as "marriages" but are a parallel interpersonal status, known in most jurisdictions as "domestic partnership", "registered partnership", "conjugal union", "civil union", etc. In Canada, for instance, the term "common-law marriage" is widely used to describe cohabiting relationships; while these do grant couples many of the rights and responsibilities of a marriage (laws vary by province), these are not marriages; couples in common-law partnerships are not legally considered married, although for many purposes (such as taxes, financial claims, etc.) they are treated as if they were. Similarly, the term "common-law marriage" is used in Australia to describe de facto relationships. A de facto relationship is not a common-law marriage.
A true common-law marriage is a fully legal marriage that has been contracted in an irregular way. In the United States, nine states and the District of Columbia permit this irregular form of marriage. People in these true common-law marriages are considered legally married for all purposes and in all circumstances.


So based on the definition above (and assuming Wikipedia is accurate LOL!): "People in these true common-law marriages are considered legally married for all purposes and in all circumstances"

(Italics from the source.)

Common-law marriage

So my answer to the OP's question is yes, it is the same thing.

We don't have a true 'common law marriage' here in Australia, just de facto relationships. If you split with your de facto, and there is property and/or children involved, you still have to go to a lawyer and have a separation agreement written up, as well as a custody agreement if necessary. Just as you would if you had signed that bit of paper (ie. were married).

I find comments such as this:


No. I view it as half-ass, probably based on the people I have known who have chosen this route. Usually, it involves one partner settling. 


to be quite offensive. I will give the poster the benefit of the doubt that she is basing this opinion on the people she personally knows who have 'chosen this route'.

I am in a de facto relationship. I have no desire to get married. I am not religious, so there's one less reason to get married. However I consider my relationship to be just as committed and legitimate as any of my friends who decided to fork out tens of thousands of dollars for a wedding and sign a piece of paper.

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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:08:56 PM
"I lived with someone for 8 yrs and we had a child together. When we split up we didn't have to get a divorce. He was supposed to pay child support but didn't. We didn't have to go to court to separate, we just went our separate ways.

For me it was not the same as going to courte and getting a divorce after being married. "

This was not a common marriage. In true common law marriages, you have to get a divorce just like a regular marriage. You can't just walk away.
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:12:43 PM
"Legally they are EXACTLY THE SAME.

It is my experience, both on this thread and IRL, that people who say no to this question simply don't understand the law. "

I agree with this. I'm an attorney as well.
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:19:27 PM
"Then how come I see in many cases when someone dies that the SO has no say in burial, end of life decisions, why so many questions about inheritance that sort of thing? Honest question no snark intended."

Because in states that allow CLM there are certain requirements. Those people just lived together or lived in a state doesn't recognize CLM.
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:41:34 PM

Anyway, in your mind, is common law marriage the exact same thing as regular marriage?


Part of the issue is with the way the question is worded.

If a couple is in a CL marriage, it's exactly the same as being in a regular marriage. Folks can go on about a commitment in front of their family etc. but in all States that recognize CL marriage, those in a CL marriage have to represent themselves to everyone as a married couple, and that includes one's family. Not to mention millions of people get married by a JP, and in Ca. you're not even required to have a witness, or tell your family you're married, or the community, so maybe that makes folks with a 'piece of paper' less married than CL couples.

Anyway, it's irrelevant what anyone thinks in their mind, the fact is a CL marriage, and God Blessed marriage, and family witnessed marriage, and marriages done by a JP, are ALL legal marriages. To opine differently is ignore the facts.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:52:08 PM

There is no simple test to see if a couple qualifies as married under common law. Unfortunately, this question of married or not most often arises in court. Since the seven-years-to-automatic-marriage idea is only a myth, the court's determination as to whether a common law marriage existed can be complicated. Some legal experts recommend that couples write, sign and date a simple statement saying they do or do not intend to be married. While common law marriage skirts legalities like a marriage license, this simple statement can prevent future burdens and offer protection should the need arise.

linky

That seems to say to ME that the best idea is to have it in writing,and one would think with a witness.


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myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:59:03 PM
I really wouldn't rely too heavily on legal zoom articles.

The fact that the article you linked refers to "common law marriage" and "legal marriage" as two separate things tells me right off the bat that it wasn't written by a reliable source, much less an expert.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:02:08 PM
no



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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:15:46 PM
Alrighty then I do not think it is the same. In my state in order to be married I have to get a license. My license is legal in all 50 states.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:21:08 PM
Ok in the states that have common law marriage, what about platonic roommates who live together for several years?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

As long as they aren't introducing each other as "my wife" or "my husband" and telling people they are married then there is no common law marriage.

It is NOT just living at the same address. It is the intent for society to consider you married.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:21:30 PM

Ok in the states that have common law marriage, what about platonic roommates who live together for several years? That happens here in Chicago. I would hate to think sharing an apt suddenly means I was married to a roommate!




Platonic roommates never become CL spouses. They have to intend to be married. If there is no intent to be married, there is no CL marriage. CL marriage can never happen accidentally.


myshelly
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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:23:31 PM

Alrighty then I do not think it is the same. In my state in order to be married I have to get a license. My license is legal in all 50 states.





A valid CL marriage is legal in all 50 states. Just as legal as your marriage license



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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:24:18 PM
I haven't read any of the responses, but I was common law married to my son's father. We filed taxes together & when we split up we had to legally divorce. I always had my maiden name though.

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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:25:27 PM
No it isn't.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 9:42:24 PM

No it isn't.



LOL! This is becoming as silly as the arguments over whether President Obama has the right to be President, because in the 'minds' of some people, and despite the facts, they still believe he was born in Kenya.

If you moved into a new neighborhood, met the lady next door and she said 'This is my husband John', then you said 'how long have y'all lived here?' and she said 'Oh, WE bought our house 12 years ago'

Then imagine she comes over for coffee and y'all discuss mundane things like she's PO'ed that her HUSBAND is working such long hours, and one of their kids got into trouble at school last week....Wouldn't you go about your business thinking 'in your mind' they were just as married as you were?

THAT'S a common law marriage (in a State that recognizes them) and to think 'in your mind' that it's any different than your 'in front of God and everybody' marriage, simply shows y'all are judgmental and prejudice.

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Posted: 12/6/2012 10:01:23 PM
I consider it the same, if you have to get a divorce then it was obviously a marriage.

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Posted: 12/6/2012 10:09:24 PM
Thanks MyShelly, I added an edit to that post. I am not an expert, I just found that info and thought it would help some people better understand what "common law" was about.


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Posted: 12/6/2012 10:21:37 PM

It is my experience, both on this thread and IRL, that people who say no to this question simply don't understand the law.
I know the law on this pretty well, although I am not a family attorney. I have done a lot of research on this and learned it in a class in college

Things that are considered:
Holding self out to be husband and wife. I have issues with this because some young people don't quite understand this. I remember in jr high and high school writing Mrs. boyfriend's last name. Sometimes people refer to their significant other as a spouse especially if they have children as there are way less questions involved
filing joinly on an income tax I am not sure how I feel about this. When it comes to a determination of CL I agree, but I guess I'm not a fan of being able to file married until you are determined married
children together
owning joint property I don't know if renting together counts toward CL, but owning does
joint accounts
listed as others insurance and retirement benefits

IF a CL marriage is entered into and can be proven, then it is just as valid and legal as one through the legal system. One of the issues is that if one person believes they are living as H and W and the other claims they didn't, it can become a he said-she said type of thing.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 10:54:12 PM
In my mind common law/long term relationships are not the same or equal to marriage. I have respect for however a couple chooses to build their lives together, but for me it is meaningful on many levels that DH and I chose to take the step to actually get married. It's more than just a legal agreement, it's the way we chose to proclaim to each other, God, our families, friends, and society, that this is the top priority in our lives, that this is the way we choose to live, and that it's a forever commitment. This doesn't diminish anyone else's relationship in any way, but it was important to us.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 11:02:23 PM
No.



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Posted: 12/6/2012 11:04:13 PM

IF a CL marriage is entered into and can be proven, then it is just as valid and legal as one through the legal system. One of the issues is that if one person believes they are living as H and W and the other claims they didn't, it can become a he said-she said type of thing.


That is what I have been trying to say... badly I guess but that was my thinking. Nothing to do with God or anything but the consent and desire of both people.
I am so bad at geting my thinking in to words..


Even with the snark, trolls and spelling police you are a great group of ladies!

I-95
It's all just nonsense anyway!

PeaNut 97,456
July 2003
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Posted: 12/6/2012 11:15:29 PM

In my mind common law/long term relationships are not the same or equal to marriage. I have respect for however a couple chooses to build their lives together, but for me it is meaningful on many levels that DH and I chose to take the step to actually get married. It's more than just a legal agreement, it's the way we chose to proclaim to each other, God, our families, friends, and society, that this is the top priority in our lives, that this is the way we choose to live, and that it's a forever commitment. This doesn't diminish anyone else's relationship in any way, but it was important to us.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but your post is inconsistent....First of all a CL marriage is not the same thing as a long term relationship, and common law marriage has been explain ad nauseam on this thread already.

You then go on to say you and your DH chose to "proclaim to each other, God, our families, friends, and society, that this is the top priority in our lives, that this is the way we choose to live, and that it's a forever commitment"....which is the same things that common law couples do.

Then you say "This doesn't diminish anyone else's relationship in any way" ....but in the beginning you said CL marriages "are not the same or equal to marriage". That certainly sounds like you're diminishing common law marriage, and what you did is somehow better, and more valid. It's not.


homespunhurricaine
PeaNut

PeaNut 548,836
March 2012
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Posted: 12/6/2012 11:59:07 PM
I'm common law married but I live in Texas and its legal...reason plain& simple we can't afford a big wedding & we aren't going to throw away the $ to go to the courthouse! He wears a ring & so do I, I also took his last name! Who's to say there's a difference? I don't love him any less!
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leftturnonly
Will trade mosquitoes for cookies.

PeaNut 416,788
March 2009
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Posted: 12/7/2012 12:20:24 AM

Just a topic I was thinking on. I don't think our state has common law marriage, and I think there are a lot of states that don't. It seems to be more common in Canada.

I don't know anyone IRL that is "common law married." I don't even fully understand it, to be honest - do you have to file for separation to split up? Do you get all the legal rights?

Anyway, in your mind, is common law marriage the exact same thing as regular marriage? Just a topic I was thinking on. I don't think our state has common law marriage, and I think there are a lot of states that don't. It seems to be more common in Canada.

I don't know anyone IRL that is "common law married." I don't even fully understand it, to be honest - do you have to file for separation to split up? Do you get all the legal rights?

Anyway, in your mind, is common law marriage the exact same thing as regular marriage?


My state recognizes common law marriages. They are legal with the same rights as any other marriage and are dissolved by divorce, just like other marriages.

The requirements to be recognized as common law have changed while I've been here, but still, the rights of marriage are the same whether you go before a judge, get married in a church in front of 200 people, or are married common law.

Yes, I know people who have been married this way, and yes, they had to be legally divorced to legally marry again.



One of the issues is that if one person believes they are living as H and W and the other claims they didn't, it can become a he said-she said type of thing.

In Texas, to have a common law marriage, you must:
1) have an agreement to be married
2) hold yourself out to a third party as being married
3) live together

You may sign a declaration of informal marriage at the county clerk's office, just to tie it up all nice and neat.


However........ the couple that I know that had to become legally divorced..... the man didn't recognize that they were considered to have been married common law, but they had lived together long enough that he still had to go through with a legal divorce.

Mind your p's and q's when you shack up in Texas.... that's all I'm sayin'.








If PC is the way to get to Heaven, I'm going straight to Hell.



peamac
Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 340,335
October 2007
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Loc: Colorado

Posted: 12/7/2012 12:23:55 AM
No, it's not the same to me.

I do have a question though. If a couple is common law married in a state that accepts it and then moves to a state that doesn't accept it, what happens as far as health insurance, when one is in the hospital- access to information from the doctor, etc, etc? Also, what if one dies in that state without a will? Will the spouse (or non-spouse, according to that state) inherit, or what?

DH runs across common law marriages sometimes with his work, so I guess it's legal here in CO.


PeaMac


princesslasertron
PeaFixture

PeaNut 273,273
August 2006
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Loc: omaha, nebraska

Posted: 12/7/2012 12:34:32 AM
no, because a different kind of commitment has to get made for legal equality.



leftturnonly
Will trade mosquitoes for cookies.

PeaNut 416,788
March 2009
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Loc: Living in Kim's Perfect World, again.

Posted: 12/7/2012 12:53:22 AM

I guess I don't understand why you'd choose a common law marriage over an official marriage license


You can obtain a legal declaration of informal marriage for a common law marriage.





If PC is the way to get to Heaven, I'm going straight to Hell.


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