How can a common law marriage be ended?

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How can a common law marriage be ended?


In several states, marriages can exist without a couple having to apply for a license or undergo an official ceremony. A couple can have a common law marriage if they live together, present each other to the public as each other’s spouse, and behave in a way that is indicative of them otherwise being married to each other.

In a similar fashion, if a common law couple wants to end their union, they may wonder if they need a lawyer to help them during the process. They should hire a lawyer to help them end their union for these important reasons.

Common Law Marriages Are the Same as Licensed Marriages

If a couple meets the criteria laid out by their state for a common law marriage, they are considered to be just as married as a couple who paid for a license and went through a civil or religious ceremony to tie the knot.

As such, only a judge can dissolve their marriage. They must file for divorce and go through the same legal process as any other legally married couple. For that reason, common law spouses could benefit by hiring a lawyer to file the paperwork for them in court.

Support and Division of Property Applies to Common Law Marriages

Just as licensed married couples can accrue property and be required to divide fairly after a divorce, so can a common law couple also have property to consider during their dissolution. A couple who bought a house, opened bank accounts, invested in retirement and accrued other property together are required to follow the law in their state when it comes to dividing up real estate, money and other assets fairly.

Likewise, if a common law couple has children, both spouses must take care of their dependents in a way that is legal and just. A lawyer can make sure that child support is awarded and that visitation is decided on fairly for both parents.

Proving a Valid Union Existed in the First Place

Unlike licensed marriages, common law marriages do not have the paperwork on file to prove that the union existed. One person could argue that the couple were nothing more than boyfriend and girlfriend, or simply friends with benefits who also lived together.

These tactics are often employed when one person does not want to pay support or be held to the legal standards that come with divorce. However, when a person has a lawyer on retainer, the attorney can help prove that the union did indeed exist. They can gather eyewitness statements, documentation and other proof to establish the marriage for the court and the judge.

Several states still allow common law marriages. People who enter into this kind of union may believe that they do not have to go through the court to have their marriages dissolved. However, in the eyes of the law, they are legally married and thus are required to file for a divorce all the same. They can begin the process by taking these facts into consideration about why they should have a lawyer on retainer.

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