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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freecharlie
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Posted: 12/7/2012 12:54:22 AM

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.
Yes legal in Colorado.

Unlike Gay marriages, Common law marriages must be recognized in all 50 states if the requirements were met in a common law state. The couples enjoy all rights in all states the same as if they had a big wedding or went to the JOP


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Posted: 12/7/2012 1:13:48 AM

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


I agree. A church wedding is beyond the legal requirements. If this is important to you, just meeting the legal requirements may not feel like enough.

The law, however, doesn't care.






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.

And.... this is why same-sex unions will become legal in every state. The dominoes have begun to fall, and there's no turning them back. It wasn't until 1999 that Alabama voted to repeal the state's constitution prohibiting interracial marriages!





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Posted: 12/7/2012 1:32:05 AM

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?


The route to becoming legally married differs in different states. In states that allow common law marriages, once you are married common law, you are legally married.

Period.

Moving to another state doesn't change that status. You are just as married as if you stood before a judge or a minister.

I do think it's the smart thing to get a declaration of informal marriage at the county clerk's office, though, since God only knows how difficult dealing with these other bureaucracies can be at the best of times!

Just because you're legally married doesn't mean they'll process your paperwork correctly.


Ever move to a different state and try to get a new driver's license? Not always the easiest thing in the world to do.







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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:48:59 AM
My SO and I were together for 22 years before he passed.

He had 4 failed marriages and I had 2.

We didn't get "married" for $$ reasons and I also figured
with our track records what was the point.

We used the terms wife and husband and I feel like a widow
so I would say YES it can be the equal to "regular" marriage
even if it is not recognized by the state or federal goverment.

Those who knew us recognized our commitment.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 5:14:38 AM
nope


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Posted: 12/7/2012 6:04:06 AM
Regardless of the law, if you are in a serious, committed relationship in which you think of yourselves as having the same commitments as a married couple then I will think of you as a married couple. The legalities of it to me are your private business and don't need to factor in to how I perceive your love and commitment to each other.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 7:00:55 AM
Yup. It's exactly the same. Everyone I know that married after being common law will tell you that it's exactly the same. The only difference is that there's a piece of paper saying they are married. The commitment and the relationship didn't change.

Half of the time I don't even know the difference between a common law marriage and a legal marriage. It just makes no difference.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 7:21:26 AM
NO. When Common law marriage just sort of happens by default. It seems cowardly to me. Aka... We are not willing to make the statement out loud and are just sort of trying it out. If it works and we stay together fine, but otherwise we figure we can go our separate ways.

If you want to be legally married and don't want all the hoopla fine, go to the courthouse and get the license. Making the commitment out loud in front of witnesses where it becomes public record seems like more of a commitment to me.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 7:53:26 AM

Yes, you do have to file for divorce if it doesn't work out. Whether you would have to file for a separation first would depend on the laws of the state. They would have to follow the exact same path as any other married couple.

And yes, you get the same full legal rights as people married in a religious or civil ceremony. There are only a small number of states in the US that do common law marriages though. So in order for it to count, the couple would have to live in one of those states, follow the rules of common law marriage, and once they have, all states have to recognize that marriage and give them the same rights.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 8:02:59 AM
Not for me, no. And I mean no disrespect to those who are IN a common law marriage. I don't belittle their commitment or anything. But if S/O wants to marry me, he's gonna have to get down on one knee and put a ring on it! I just feel that the ceremony is important. Not a big huge wedding, but the actual ceremony. If I am worth calling "wife", then I am worth the paperwork. JMHO.


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blondiek237
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Posted: 12/7/2012 8:20:49 AM
I'm confused (nothing really new there) But if you are legally joined weather CLM or married--why not just get married. It is less than $50 to have a JP marry you in MA. So if you present yourselves as a married couple and you have the protections of the law--why the need for the 2 distinctions? I know some people don't get married because they don't want to deal with the whole divorce issue or they don't want to co-mingle their assets, but even with CLM these are issues they would have to deal with. Again I just don't see the reason for the 2.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 8:22:24 AM
What if the "intent to be married" is only on one side? What about couples who live together and one partner never intends to marry, but the other holds out hope that some day there will be a "regular" marriage?

There are reasons people live together and do not go through a traditional/legal/courthouse/whatever marriage. They -- or one of them -- do not want to be married in any way.

So someone makes a point not to marry, which would be the responsible thing to do if she truly did not want to be married, but ends up having to go through the whole divorce process simply because her live-in boyfriend referred to her as "wife" when talking to the neighbors? That really sucks.




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littlelambchop
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Posted: 12/7/2012 8:24:06 AM

There's no common law in MA


I was in your situation in MA for 21 years before making it legal for insurance reasons. Make sure you have Medical proxies and durable powers of Attorney in place.


Lois

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Posted: 12/7/2012 8:59:07 AM
I don't think it matter what anyone "thinks" about someone else's marriage-it's what they think about it that matters

if someone feels it's equal to regular marriage then, for them it is



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Posted: 12/7/2012 9:18:01 AM
No it does not.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 9:56:18 AM
Obviously, some posters are NOT reading this whole thread before commenting. Because many still seem to think that CLM just happens when a couple lives together.

Living together, even sharing a bed, does NOT mean you have a common law marriage. There are specific steps that must be taken by BOTH parties to make a CLM. And a CLM is just as legal and valid as any other traditional marriage. Even in states that have a process in place for CLM, it doesn't matter how long you live together-- if you haven't met the requirements and BOTH indicated an INTENT to be married, then you aren't.

Now, my personal opinion is that "MARRIAGE" should not be used as a legal term at all. Marriage is something achieved by a ceremony, most often of a religious nature. This should be IN ADDITION TO a civil/legal process. I think in France, you have a civil union recognized by the government, with papers filed in a government office. Then you have a religious ceremony or wedding after that. The religious ceremony or wedding has no legal standing whatsoever on it's own. Any French Peas can correct me if I am wrong. But I think this would eliminate the whole argument about marriage being between a man and a woman based on religious beliefs. It would allow the government to recognize same-sex civil unions without stepping on the toes of the hard-core religious constituents. (Because I personally believe that the government has no businesses dictating who anyone can or can't marry as long as all parties are legally consenting adults. This goes for plural marriage, too.)

But the fact remains that a Common Law Marriage is EXACTLY THE SAME as a traditional marriage in the eyes of the law. And historically, what what everyone did--with or without a religious ceremony--before the government got all up in our business about every little thing.






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Posted: 12/7/2012 9:59:25 AM

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.


As a family law attorney in Texas, just no. That's not the case.

First of all, "lived together long enough" has NOTHING to do with the law in Texas. A couple who has lived together for one day is just as CL married as one who has lived together for 20 years if you meet all the requirements in TX. The amount of time you live together means NOTHING.

Second, there's no way it could have happened without the husband's intent. The court looks at things that are not accidents - like whether you file income taxes as a married couple.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 10:07:11 AM
It's not the same to me from what I can tell. But then again, I have never lived in a state where it has legal status, so I haven't had exposure to it.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 10:54:15 AM
I practiced workers' compensation law in Oklahoma for many years. When a worker dies from a work related injury, the surviving spouse is entitled to certain benefits. There were cases where four different women would show up to claim benefits. Of course, you can only be married to one person at a tine and if you do have a common law marriage, you must get divorced before you can marry someone else.

I always thought it was a tough job for the judge to try and determine which, if any, of the ladies was the common law wife.

I don't ever remember being involved in a case wherein multiple men claimed to be the surviving spouse of a deceased female worker.


Ginny

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Posted: 12/7/2012 11:21:30 AM
in my opinion, yes.

the problem I have with 'marriage' is that in this country it's a mash-up between a religious commitment and a legal long-term commitment that comes with benefits and tax breaks that other people in long-term committed relationships do not get... if we didn't have those issues in this country, then my answer would be no.

(and before anyone says, 'well, you could get married' I'll answer: my BF was married, years ago, in the church- 'before God,' yadda, yadda, yadda... it didn't work out, and he now has ZERO interest in ever getting married again, because of those religious connotations. That past experience doesn't change our level of personal commitment to each other, so I don't think it's fair that people who are 'married' get financial breaks and benefits that we can't.)

ETA: I agree with this: "I believe all legal marriages should be common law marriages and weddings/ceremonies should be completely separate from legal considerations."

and I wish AZ recognized common-law unions (since we live here), but they don't.



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blondiek237
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Posted: 12/7/2012 1:16:35 PM
I agree with that as well. I think it could be the answer to same sex marriage. All would be CLM and then you can take the religious marriage up with the church of your choice.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 1:36:05 PM
I didn't read all the responses (or any of them) so in my line of business (legal) yes there is common law marriage and we treat it as a marriage.



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Posted: 12/7/2012 1:50:06 PM
I'm kind of confused on why someone would choose a common law marriage over a plain, old married by the justice of the peace marriage. I'm just trying to figure out what the benefits of it are over a simple civil marriage ceremony which isn't really difficult, time consuming, or expensive.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:03:40 PM

I'm kind of confused on why someone would choose a common law marriage over a plain, old married by the justice of the peace marriage. I'm just trying to figure out what the benefits of it are over a simple civil marriage ceremony which isn't really difficult, time consuming, or expensive.
I could ask you the opposite question. What's the difference besides the fee and a piece of paper?




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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:27:08 PM
That's the point, Aprilfay, I don't see the difference. And in some of the posts it looks like some common law marriages you actually do get a piece of paper. What I'm trying to figure out is why not just have one process of getting legally married instead of two, KWIM? I'm trying to figure out the pluses and minuses.

And I meant no judgement of either way of doing things or not doing them at all. I live with my boyfriend and though we are fully committed to each other, we have no plans to get married, so I have no opinion on common law vs. regular marriage. I don't live in a common law state and I don't know anyone married this way so this thread has been really informative and it seems to me like there is no difference in the legal benefits/protections afforded being married either way. So I'm trying to figure out why someone would choose one over the other.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:41:25 PM

That's the point, Aprilfay, I don't see the difference. And in some of the posts it looks like some common law marriages you actually do get a piece of paper. What I'm trying to figure out is why not just have one process of getting legally married instead of two, KWIM? I'm trying to figure out the pluses and minuses.


Why should there only be one way?

Think about how many things can be accomplished different ways under the law:
How many different ways are there to become a legal US citizen?

To become a legal driver in TX you can complete an accredited drivers Ed program OR you can receive instruction from your parents and then take a test at the DMV.

To be a high school graduate you can attend public school. Or private school. Or homeschool. Or drop out of school and take the test for a GED.

There are tons of examples where the law gives multiple ways to accomplish the same goal. Why should there be only one way to get married?



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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:45:36 PM

Why should there only be one way?


I really don't have an opinion on this. I'm really just trying to see the pluses and minuses of both ways is all. Trying to be more informed. I would think, though, from the perspective of the state it might be easier for *the state* to have only one way to legally get married. I would imagine that's probably why common law marriage isn't recognized in many states, including mine.

You said you're a family law attorney in a state that allows common law marriage. Why do some people choose one and some people choose the other? Just wondering if you can shed some light.

_Laurie_
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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:48:31 PM
No. In some states people only need to be cohabitants and present themselves as a couple to be considered common-law spouses.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:55:36 PM
I guess I don't really understand this question? In some states it is equal and most (?) it is not.

If you're talking about emotionally, I think that just depends on the couple and their stance on their own relationship.

For me personally, my husband and I lived together for 8 years before we got married. I felt that we were 'equal' to 'regular marriage' in that our relationship was solid and committed, however eventually we needed the legal benefits of getting married so we went to the courthouse and made it legal.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 2:55:50 PM

You said you're a family law attorney in a state that allows common law marriage. Why do some people choose one and some people choose the other? Just wondering if you can shed some light.


Some people don't believe in ceremonies at all. Even a "simple civil ceremony by the jp" as you put it is offensive to their belief system.

Some people are offended by the idea of going to a court to get a piece of paper (marriage license) for various reasons (including that they don't believe the peice of paper means anything). You can, but do not have to, get a piece of paper confirming you CL marriage.

I think what people are missing is that it's not like you say "I don't want to be legally married, so I'll be common law married."

Texas law says (and I am paraphrasing) that two be married you can either

get a license and have a ceremony

OR

cohabit, agree to be married, and hold yourself out to be married.

They are NOT two separate things. They are two METHODS of accomplishing the same thing.

It's just like any other decision in life - you look at the two methods and you decide which is best and easiest for you and then you do it.

The law makes no differentiation about your marriage based on the method you choose.

It's just like the other examples I posted about getting a drivers license or a HS diploma - why do we make those decisions? Finances, time, personal moral beliefs, personality, what's best for the individual family.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:04:18 PM
For myself, no.

For anyone else it doesn't matter what I think. If two consenting adults want this type of relationship and understand their legal rights its up to them.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:09:55 PM
No, not at all similar. It's just an arbitrary length of time in which a man and woman live together that says they are married by default. I don't see it as really being a committment. The benefit is to the woman who by default can make claim on the man's estate.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:11:02 PM
I don't think the method of marriage makes a whit of difference in the relationship.

It just seems like it would be more complicated, in the practicalities of life, to not have a traditional marriage certificate.

Working in banking, I am fully familiar with how bureaucratic many things relating to finances, inheritances, etc. are. I can totally see running into stubborn, ill-informed (because as this thread has clearly proven, a lot of us - myself included - were not clear on what common law marriage actually means) paper pushers who would reject the paper proving common law marriage as the wrong paperwork.

Sure, the couple would be in the right and the paperwork would be valid, but that doesn't mean the bureaucrat is going to roll over and accept if they think it's not correct. Since the need for this kind of thing most often comes up at stressful times (especially after deaths), I'd hate to have to deal with extra foolishness unncessarily.

TO ME, it just seems like it would be more complicated to get legal and financial things done. If you're going to have to get a piece of paper to prove you're married anyway, why not get the one that is going to cause you the least hassle in the future?

I found dealing with all the paperwork following my father's death to be so demanding and at times ridiculous. As a result, I definitely try to do whatever I can to minimize complications on things like this now. I suppose that experience makes me look at this issue through a weird lens.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:11:46 PM

No, not at all similar. It's just an arbitrary length of time in which a man and woman live together that says they are married by default. I don't see it as really being a committment. The benefit is to the woman who by default can make claim on the man's estate.
Obviously, you haven't read this thread.




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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:12:37 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!


So you didn't have a religious ceremony? and you've been living in sin all this time?? I'll pray for you.




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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:25:41 PM

No, not at all similar. It's just an arbitrary length of time in which a man and woman live together that says they are married by default. I don't see it as really being a committment. The benefit is to the woman who by default can make claim on the man's estate.



You clearly have not read any of this thread because that is NOT true in any state.

It is SO frustrating that people don't even try to understand the facts before answering this question.






myshelly
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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:29:43 PM

TO ME, it just seems like it would be more complicated to get legal and financial things done. If you're going to have to get a piece of paper to prove you're married anyway, why not get the one that is going to cause you the least hassle in the future?


Just getting a marriage license doesn't make you married.

There is also a ceremony requirement if you go that route.

If you have a moral or religious issue with ceremonies, that is a problem.


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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:41:29 PM
If the commonlaw includes declaring a spouse as a life-partner, then it would be the same. If you're common-law just based on a length of time you'd lived together, then no.

My dh and I lived together for 13 years before getting married. Were we common-law at that time? I don't know. I DO know that we weren't choosing to be married because we weren't ready. Even though we owned a home together we didn't consider ourselves married.



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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:44:46 PM
Thank you for explaining it, myshelly.

I think if I wanted to get married and I lived in a state with common law marriage, I wouldn't even bother going to get the license. I'd just have whatever little ceremony I wanted and call it good. I don't see what the incentive is to get the paper at all if you don't have to.

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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:45:52 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!


So you didn't have a religious ceremony? and you've been living in sin all this time?? I'll pray for you.


FFS.



reneelcla
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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:49:53 PM

And historically, what what everyone did--with or without a religious ceremony--before the government got all up in our business about every little thing.




This. Before the Government of England and the Roman Catholic Church got involved, marriage was just a private agreement between a man and woman to be huband and wife. No ceremony or anything. England changed the law with respect to England but left in place CLM for its colonies. Slowly, in the U.S. the federal government left it up to the states to determine what it means to be married, so some states abolished CLM and some kept it.

Renee

gar
Whoopea!

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Posted: 12/7/2012 3:52:55 PM

For myself, no.

For anyone else it doesn't matter what I think. If two consenting adults want this type of relationship and understand their legal rights its up to them.



That's where I am.



Today, I will be colouring outside the lines.


crimsoncat05
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Posted: 12/7/2012 4:49:56 PM
No, not at all similar. It's just an arbitrary length of time in which a man and woman live together that says they are married by default. I don't see it as really being a committment. The benefit is to the woman who by default can make claim on the man's estate.




Obviously, you haven't read this thread.




and obviously you are (Georgiapea, I mean) ultra-judgemental, too- seriously?!? the only benefit is to the woman because she can 'make a claim on the man's estate'?? really?!? FFS is right!!




"Accepting anything without question is the antithesis of critical thinking and education. ~wren*walk, 8/20/12"


Photobarbie143
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Posted: 12/7/2012 5:06:06 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!



So you didn't have a religious ceremony? and you've been living in sin all this time?? I'll pray for you.



You might want to pray for me too since I'm on my second common law marriage.
God bless Texas!!!

Simply_Lovely
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Posted: 12/7/2012 6:03:26 PM

You might want to pray for me too since I'm on my second common law marriage.
God bless Texas!!!


It's a personal comment to that pea to highlight her hypocrisy, one that hopefully she understood the meaning of.

I don't care what marriage anyone has, as long as they are happy And I lived in sin for 7+ years before DH and I made it "official."




Meow!

Periwrinkle
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Posted: 12/7/2012 9:40:45 PM

Now, my personal opinion is that "MARRIAGE" should not be used as a legal term at all. Marriage is something achieved by a ceremony, most often of a religious nature. This should be IN ADDITION TO a civil/legal process. I think in France, you have a civil union recognized by the government, with papers filed in a government office. Then you have a religious ceremony or wedding after that. The religious ceremony or wedding has no legal standing whatsoever on it's own


this is how we think it should be.

I see a common law marriage as 100% equal to a "regular" marriage.




leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/7/2012 10:42:03 PM

First of all, "lived together long enough" has NOTHING to do with the law in Texas. A couple who has lived together for one day is just as CL married as one who has lived together for 20 years if you meet all the requirements in TX. The amount of time you live together means NOTHING.

Second, there's no way it could have happened without the husband's intent. The court looks at things that are not accidents - like whether you file income taxes as a married couple.


First of all, Yes, it happened.

And there was a time requirement when this occurred.....

This isn't gossip. I knew the couple personally. They had been separated longer than two years - this was before the law changed - and when she wanted to get married to someone else, he was hit with divorce papers.

I know they lived together as husband and wife for an extended time, but they must also have presented themselves as husband and wife at some point, even though they always presented themselves as boyfriend/girlfriend to me. I don't know if they filed taxes together, or what exactly they did. All I know is that he was completely taken by surprise when hit with divorce papers, somehow not realizing that he was (still?) legally married.

I don't know if she had witnesses or not, but I'm sure it was very possible that she did. They were together for quite some time. It wouldn't have been hard to find someone who would have sworn that both people represented this intent to be married to them. In any case, he went along with getting divorced. He may have had a good case to fight it, maybe not.... but the relationship was long over and he did the right thing to legally divorce.


The new law now makes it possible to declare that there was no intention of informal marriage after a period of time after a breakup, but still...... I think it's playing with fire to not get any of these intents legally down on paper. He would have signed this at their breakup if it had been available.

I'm all for common law - with the declaration of informal marriage to put all questions to rest.


I'm sure as an attorney, you have the correct legal view of this. I'm just telling a true story of how this played out with 2 people I knew personally during their relationship, and just him afterwards, when he was hit with the divorce papers, and the many many years since.

He still talks about it, and he still swears it took him completely by surprise to learn they were legally married. He also holds no ill will towards her, and as I said, readily agreed to the divorce.




It just seems like it would be more complicated, in the practicalities of life, to not have a traditional marriage certificate.

That's why I think it's playing with fire not to file the paperwork. My husband died, and I needed every paper proving every little thing. I've been sitting here thinking how much worse my runarounds would have been if I had no legal paper to back up my claims. I don't know if our tax returns would have been enough, quite frankly.

Guess I may have had to turn to myshelly or someone else with that legal degree to represent me.



Sure, the couple would be in the right and the paperwork would be valid, but that doesn't mean the bureaucrat is going to roll over and accept if they think it's not correct. Since the need for this kind of thing most often comes up at stressful times (especially after deaths), I'd hate to have to deal with extra foolishness unncessarily.


I agree with you completely!










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



leftturnonly
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Posted: 12/7/2012 10:53:18 PM

Texas law says (and I am paraphrasing) that two be married you can either

get a license and have a ceremony

OR

cohabit, agree to be married, and hold yourself out to be married.

They are NOT two separate things. They are two METHODS of accomplishing the same thing.


Again, myshelly, I agree that this is the law. (In case you thought I was disagreeing with you.)


I've lived in Texas a very long time. It is the way it is, and it just makes sense here.

We've also had early voting here for decades. It's just the way it is here.

I've lived in other states, and after a time living here, instead of asking why Texas does things the way it does, you really begin asking why these other states don't do things the Texas way.






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



lizziej
PeaNut

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Posted: 12/7/2012 11:20:51 PM
Texas recognizes common law marriages. If you are common law married and later want to split up, you have to get divorced. In the legal sense, it is exactly the same as a marriage before a judge or priest, minister, etc. I'd have to look it up, but last I knew, all you had to do to be common law married was to hold yourselves out to be husband and wife. It can be done in an instant. For example, if you went to apply for a mortgage to buy a house and you checked "married" under marital status, you are married. Just living together, even for decades, does not automatically make you common law married, though. I worked with a couple who have lived together for probably over 30 years and are not considered married.


Liz
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