Common-Law Marriages in Non-Participating States

common-law marriage is a union between two people that is formed without a marriage license or wedding ceremony. Contrary to what many believe, obtaining a common-law marriage is not as simple as cohabitating for a prolonged period of time, though the determination of marital status varies from state to state. In many instances, to establish a marriage within a common-law state, the couple must be officiated by the state court.

In New York, the practice of common-law marriage has long been abolished and is currently unrecognized throughout most of the United States. However, due to the agreement set forth in Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, partnerships that were created in common-law states and territories have the right to exist in other states. 

When validly contracted, common-law marriages are subject to the same rights as ceremonially-married couples. While there is no such thing as a common-law divorce, couples that are registered as common-law partners will still require a legal separation if they choose to end their marriage. Dissolving a common-law marriage will require the division of assets like any other divorce proceeding. Furthermore, common-law marriages that produce children will still be entitled to decisions regarding custody, visitation, and child support.

Unmarried couples that have been cohabitating, but are not considered common-law partners by their state, will still be entitled to mediation regarding the division of assets should they end their relationship. Depending on the dollar value of the assets in dispute, this matter would be handled in district court while child support, visitation and custody matters would be dealt with in family court. If you are presently engaged in a common-law marriage or have been cohabitating and are looking to separate from your spouse or partner, the attorneys at Heather A. Fig, PLLC can help advise you. You have rights within your marriage regardless of the state your marriage began in. Before making any major life-adjustments, it is important that you speak to an experienced family law and divorce attorney who will fight to ensure that you receive all that you are entitled to. 

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