Common Law Union
July 2, 2015 9:38 PM   Subscribe

In consideration of recent developments, from the Supreme Court on gender neutral marriage, what happens with the already problematic legal territory surrounding Common Law unions? One aspect of this question could be concern about exposing my long-term roommate to my liabilities. Another might be having a rightful claim on shared property.
posted by yesster to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you have sexual relationship or other romantic partnership? Long co-tenancy does not a marriage make.
posted by mercredi at 9:49 PM on July 2, 2015

Best answer: Do you hold yourself out as being a couple? Just living together doesn't make people become common-law spouses. You and your roommate are not going to get accidentally married.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:50 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The public perception of common law marriage is a lot looser a definition than it really is. Accidental common law marriage is a Hollywood thing, not a real thing to worry about.
posted by Sequence at 10:33 PM on July 2, 2015

Best answer: As above, common law marriage requires far more than 'living together' for defined period of time. If you and your roommate are 'just roommates', you have nothing to worry about. If you have an intimate/sexual relationship and hold yourself out as 'a couple' and act accordingly, then yes, there are possible legal liabilities that may accrue. Do you do that?
posted by modernnomad at 1:19 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are the general requirements for common law marriage. Living together does not automatically mean a marriage exists. I imagine that the only change to the law will be the gender specific language. The other requirements won't change.
posted by rakaidan at 3:17 AM on July 3, 2015

Best answer: If the location shown in your profile is accurate, you should know that common law marriage is not recognized in your state, and apparently has not been since 1959. But yes, everyone else is correct that in order for a common law marriage to exist, you and your marital partner would have to actually agree to be married and would have to publicly hold yourselves out as married.

posted by decathecting at 3:40 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Canada has had legal same sex marriage for well over a decade. We have also recognised Common-law relationships as (almost) equivalent as legal marriages for decades (pretty much the only difference is a couple small implications upon divorce/dissolving the relationship and you can be compelled to testify against a common law spouse). Your fears have not proven true in Canada; I do not see why this would be different in the US. The law is blind, not dumb.
posted by saucysault at 5:16 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Common law marriages can only be formed in 10 states and DC; and, yes, you have to hold yourselves out as married within the community.

Common law marriages solve two problems: lack of access to clergy or state authorities, a common situation on the frontier but rare today; and informal cohabitation arrangements that resulted in the production of children being abandoned by one of the partners, leaving the children without support from one of the parents. Paternity tests and mandatory child support laws largely solve the second problem without having to declare the parents were common-law married in order to get support for the children. (It more rarely comes in questions of inheritance, or post-break-up spousal support -- that is, alimony.)

Most states no longer allow them to be formed because they no longer solve any significant problems for the state.

Don't go around telling people you're married to your roommate, while your roommate does the same, over the course of several years, while living together in one of the few jurisdictions that allows common law marriage in the United States, and you should be fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

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