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JumpyTheFrog

S/O Is it time to get rid of common law marriage?

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In another thread we began discussing common law marriage in the US. Does anything think it is still useful to have? It sounds like the main purpose long ago was for rural couples to be able to marry even if there was no official available to record the marriage. Since this is no longer an issue, and since it was never allowed in most states, it seems have no purpose to me. I suspect that the few couples who use it only use it to enter a marriage, and if they split up, don't legally divorce as they are required to. Of course, I've never lived in a state that had it, so my assumption might be wrong.

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Well, I think maybe we actually need it more in some ways.  It's now socially acceptable to co-habit without legal marriage.  And yet whatever people say, all kinds of interdependencies are created by that.  If people live together 10 years, there has to be some kind of metric used to adjudicate if they separate. 

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What benefit would come from not allowing common law marriage?

 

 

So you don't unintentionally end up married?

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I think most people cohabitating people would benefit from the greater rights and privileges afforded by 'common law' protections.

 

In my province you can even assert rights or formalize a platonic interdependent relationship if you want to.

 

I see it as a very useful and very fair set of protections and obligations if people are genuinely sharing their lives. I don't care if people believe in marriage, I still value everyone's access to fair treatment and protective laws.

Edited by bolt.
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If people live together 10 years, there has to be some kind of metric used to adjudicate if they separate. 

 

 

Does there? Like, if I live together with my best friend for 10 years without being in a romantic relationship, would we need that? If we live together in a romantic relationship, but keep all our finances separate, do we need that? Why can't we just treat people like adults, and let them decide whether to enter into a legal contract or not, rather than make it automatic if they happen to cohabit and sleep together for a certain period of time?

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If people live together 10 years, there has to be some kind of metric used to adjudicate if they separate.

Marriage with a license has a definite start date. How do you determine the start date for cohabiting? I’ve listened to two different podcasts where the guest psychologists stated that most people “slide†into cohabiting gradually, rather than ever officially decide to do it. One starts out with having a drawer in the nightstand and their stuff gradually moves in. So when did the cohabiting start? This sounds like it would be a legal mess when they split up with lawyers arguing about if one staying most, but not all nights counted, or if they technically lived together but one kept their old apartment, etc.

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It was created as a protection for women. Why would we want to take that away?

 

 

For one, I don't get the impression that being married provides many benefits in the event of a split-up, and besides, it's pretty easy to refuse to cohabit with a guy (or woman) if they refuse to marry you. 

Edited by luuknam

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If you look at the link, there is no automatic common law marriage determined after a certain length of time.  It is a court decision based on relationship.  And I would assume it would only go to court if someone took it to court to establish either inheritance rights or property rights or some other kind of rights. 

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If you look at the link, there is no automatic common law marriage determined after a certain length of time.  It is a court decision based on relationship.  And I would assume it would only go to court if someone took it to court to establish either inheritance rights or property rights or some other kind of rights. 

 

 

It does however say that you may be found to be in a common law marriage by the courts, and that if you don't want to be, that you should both sign a piece of paper saying it's not your intent. In other words, if you split up, your partner could claim that it was a common law marriage, even if you didn't want it to be. This might require you to spend big money on a divorce lawyer, which could be a disadvantage to women just as easily as it could be an advantage. 

 

I get that it could be great for inheritances, but really, it's not that much work to go to the court house and get married, nor that expensive (if you're too poor to get married, then odds are that there isn't anything worth inheriting either). 

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Does there? Like, if I live together with my best friend for 10 years without being in a romantic relationship, would we need that? If we live together in a romantic relationship, but keep all our finances separate, do we need that? Why can't we just treat people like adults, and let them decide whether to enter into a legal contract or not, rather than make it automatic if they happen to cohabit and sleep together for a certain period of time?

If you have a joint bank account, and you and your friend function as an economic and domestic unit for a decade... yes, I think she might need to be protected from you putting her out of her home on a whim. Even landlords can't do that.

 

(If you aren't a domestic and economic unit, you aren't interdependent enough for this to matter.)

 

You didn't marry her, but she still has the right to walk away from your shared years with something to show for the ways you two built a life together. (Not community property 50/50 but something.)

 

The reason we can't trust long-term cohabiting couples to 'act like adults' is because it's tremendously hard to be unselfish towards a long term partner when your relationship has ended. It's really common for a person with more power in a relationship to be selfish and unjust towards the other one is the heat of the moment.

 

Sure, we can say, "Too bad, shouldn't have moved in with a jerk/shrew I guess. Enjoy the devastation you set yourself up for, sucker." -- or we can require various jerks/shrews to treat their former partners with a minimal degree of decency and justice.

 

Also, there are often kids.

 

The breakup of a long-term common law family with kids is not functionally, ethically or morally the same as the conception of a baby between dating people who break things off. There no way those two situations should be addressed by the law as if they were the same thing.

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It does however say that you may be found to be in a common law marriage by the courts, and that if you don't want to be, that you should both sign a piece of paper saying it's not your intent. In other words, if you split up, your partner could claim that it was a common law marriage, even if you didn't want it to be. This might require you to spend big money on a divorce lawyer, which could be a disadvantage to women just as easily as it could be an advantage. 

 

I get that it could be great for inheritances, but really, it's not that much work to go to the court house and get married, nor that expensive (if you're too poor to get married, then odds are that there isn't anything worth inheriting either). 

 

But only in those states (or countries) where common law marriage is even a thing. 

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I would prefer to see a clearer separation between legal (state) marriage and religious marriage.  I know people who, for various reasons, want to make a religious commitment for marriage but think that they should be able to do that without the state getting involved.  State marriage is a contract with certain pre-set stipulations that most people entering into marriage don't realize--and don't realize how much those can vary from state to state.  If someone wants to enter into a contractual relationship with another person, I think they should be able to set the terms of that contract.  

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Also, there are often kids.

 

I'm pretty sure that with kids you can do the whole court custody/child support battle thing whether you were ever married, ever lived together, etc or not, whether common law is a thing in your state or not, etc. Basically, I don't know that there are any benefits to being (common law or otherwise) married wrt custody and/or child support in most (all?) states. 

 

But only in those states (or countries) where common law marriage is even a thing. 

 

 

Obviously... I thought that went without saying.

 

ETA: I guess the main benefit is that the guy you're married to is automatically considered to be the father, so it'd get rid of the need to request a paternity test. 

Edited by luuknam
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It's an interesting question.  I don't really see a benefit to removing it.  Though I'm not sure it's used much nowadays.  I could see it being a benefit to disadvantaged people, such as a person who doesn't have much capacity to assert herself to make the arrangement legal.

 

As a single mom, I sometimes question how essential those rights of marriage are in our society, or how fair they are; but if I think of them as a protection to someone who isn't really able to make comparable legal arrangements, then it kinda makes sense.

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It's pretty state specific.  My state doesn't recognize it, but if a couple has a child in common they both have legal responsibilities that are recognized and enforced no matter what their marital status. 

 

I'm not really sure what is gained by abolishing it in states that do have it. 

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I don't get the point of common law marriage.

People who want to formalize their union should have the opportunity to do so through a deliberate act. Marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, whatever format exists and fits their need.

One should not be able to slide accidentally into a contractual relationship, just by passing some expiration date.

Edited by regentrude
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I don't get the point of common law marriage.

People who want to formalize their union should have the opportunity to do so through a deliberate act. Marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, whatever format exists and fits their need.

One should not be able to slide accidentally into a contractual relationship, just by passing some expiration date.

 

I think that to be common law married, you have to present yourself publicly as husband and wife.  So it would not be an accident.

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As long as women make less money than men and as long as single fathers don't have the same legal rights divorcing fathers or single mothers do it should remain.

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I think that to be common law married, you have to present yourself publicly as husband and wife.  So it would not be an accident.

 

Then why not use any of the other ways to formalize your relationship? Like - marriage?

Is the purpose to allow already married people to marry again, without divorcing their previous spouse? 

This is an actual question - I am stumped as to the purpose.

Edited by regentrude

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Then why not use any of the other ways to formalize your relationship? Like - marriage?

Is the purpose to allow already married people to marry again, without divorcing their previous spouse? 

This is an actual question - I am stumped as to the purpose.

 

To keep the state out of it.

To avoid paying licensing fees and having an expensive wedding OR eloping.

To provide those whose partners refuse to go through with a ceremony some of the same legal protections that they would have if their lives were exactly the same but they had gone through with the ceremony.

To avoid family drama.

 

The only people I know who've done this were struggling financially, already had a child together, and had no interest in inviting judgmental parents to their wedding.  They didn't have an extra $500 to spend on even a courthouse wedding, but to qualify for certain housing together they needed to be married.  This was in Colorado where the requirements were incredibly simple.

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Then why not use any of the other ways to formalize your relationship? Like - marriage?

Is the purpose to allow already married people to marry again, without divorcing their previous spouse? 

This is an actual question - I am stumped as to the purpose.

You cannot have a common law marriage with someone who is already legally married, AFAIK.  At least not here in my state (Texas).  

 

A true Common Law marriage must meet quite a few criteria, not just living together for any length of time.  Essentially a Common Law marriage, at least in Texas, is simply less formal.  There is no official civil or religious service.  You still have to meet certain specific criteria.

 

As I understand it, this is what is required in my state:

1.  You must be over 18.

2.  You cannot already be married to someone else.

3.  You must SAY you are married (both of you) and act like a married couple.

4.  You must live together as a married couple.

5.  To be certain it holds up you can also file a letter of intent stating that you are a married couple.

 

Why not then just get married?  Well, some people object to the hoop jumping that can be required for a true civil service.  Some absolutely object to a religious service.  Some live together for a while then decide they are "married" in all but the marriage certificate/religious ceremony sense but no longer feel that following that path is necessary.  They are committed and living as a married couple would.  They just continue in that vein, but now with more intentionality.

 

So why have a common law marriage as even an option?  Well there are probably several reasons but I will mention one that I know came up with a relative.  Let's say you and your SO have been living together for many years.  You started out with just a roommate situation but over time things became more serious.  For personal reasons neither of you wants to go through a civil service and neither are currently religious.  You care about each other and are committed but for various reasons (and there can be many) getting married through official channels was not a good idea or what you and your SO wanted.  Still, you have lived together essentially as a married couple for many years. You still care about each other.  You act as husband and wife and call each other so.  You at this point have made it clear that you consider yourselves married.  This relationship matters.

 

Now one SO is in a car accident.   They are in the hospital.  They are unconscious and cannot advocate for themselves.  Because of common law in their state the SO that is not injured has the ability to be in control of the health care of their SO, make decisions about end of life care, etc.  If that injured SO dies, the other one is still given access to survivor benefits, access to records, etc.  Without Common Law rights they might have none of those things.  

 

Now make it more complicated.  Suppose there are relatives that are VERY different from the injured SO.  They have a poor relationship.  The injured SO may not have even had contact with them for years.  The relatives are frankly pretty narcissistic and abusive.  Because of Common Law those unwanted relatives would have a much harder time taking over the situation, making life and death decisions that might not mesh at all well with what the injured SO wants.  Common Law gives the partner the ability to legally come to SO's defense and take care of them the way they would have wanted.  Common Law also protects them from unwanted relatives trying take SO's belongings/money/benefits if they pass on.

 

 

Frankly, I think there are a lot of nuances to this.  I don't think this is a black and white, easy to determine, situation.  I have never had a common law marriage but had a relative that did.  I would not want this option completely removed, not without significant research into the various aspects of this issue.

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For one, I don't get the impression that being married provides many benefits in the event of a split-up, and besides, it's pretty easy to refuse to cohabit with a guy (or woman) if they refuse to marry you.

Marriage provides fairly extensive protections to women or anyone functioning as a family caregiver for an intimate partner in community property states. Have you ever been though a divorce?

 

I can think of numerous people who are far better off on the dissolution of a long time partnership because they were married or counted as married in the eyes of the law. It’s a question of economic equity.

 

Financial abuse is an exceedingly common aspect of domestic violence. So someone could own very little on paper but find that when they are ready to leave, they are at least entitled to half of the house and assets someone else was able to accrue because they were always there to take care of the house and kids.

Edited by LucyStoner
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My state doesn’t have common law marriage but I actually think it should.

 

A member of my extended family and his partner have been together for decades, long before they were legally permitted to marry. They wear wedding rings and I had assumed they had made it legal at some point after our state permitted them to. Found out recently that was not the case.

 

If my relative died today, his partner would be unable to collect widower’s benefits for Social Security even though they have been together since before I graduated high school. That seems wrong to me. At some point marriage should be something that the couple has to actively opt out of rather than actively opt in to IMHO.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Then why not use any of the other ways to formalize your relationship? Like - marriage?

Is the purpose to allow already married people to marry again, without divorcing their previous spouse? 

This is an actual question - I am stumped as to the purpose.

 

 That's not the purpose, because people in common-law marriages are meant to get formally divorced just as people in typical marriages. Of course, they don't always or even frequently do so, at least not voluntarily, but the issue can be forced by one of the two people. Someone could even object to a marriage many years later, if the common-law marriage was never dissolved. 

 

If a common-law marriage can be established, the economically-disadvantaged spouse will have some protections in event of a split. It can be a big court battle, and you have to have pretty solid evidence: are you listed as a spouse on any paperwork, do you have any cards or letters from your spouse or his family that refer to you as the spouse, and so on. 

 

My personal opinion is that it should be abolished from this point forward (still recognizing current common-law marriages). It is hard expensive and hard to prove that the person who is currently denying it ever intending to marry you. It is cheap and easy to get married. Of most importance, people do not understand common-law marriage, what it takes to establish it, and what protections they will and won't have. If you did a poll, I bet the majority of people would think it is all allowed in all or most states.

 

The vague idea of being protected in case of a split does tremendous harm to many people who get talked into it. Before we say that everyone should do their due diligence before making such a decision, let's remember that there are many people out there who are shockingly naive or cognitively challenged.  

 

I'm personally not keen on the idea of a marriage within a religious faith only, because again you have the issues of taking advantage of certain people who will not understand it lacks legal protection, or who might be pressured to take the religious-only route to prove their faith. Plus, jdahquist, getting married in the church only does not allow someone to set the terms of a contractual relationship with another person. Because contracts are, by definition, bound by law (and hence the state). They could indeed set up various kinds of contracts with another person without getting legally married, but they are all going to involve the law. Either at the time of writing the contract or at the time when one person wants to enforce the contract. You either involve the state, or you have no contract and no protections. 

 

Something as intentional and important as marriage should never be in dispute. You are married or you are not. If you are religious, you of course can get married in church, and you are free to personally give more weight to the blessing of the church than to the legal documents. 

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Most of the couples I know who don’t officially marry, especially after divorce, have primarily financial reasons for doing so. If the common law protections in their given state are enough I don’t mind.

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To keep the state out of it.

 

They didn't have an extra $500 to spend on even a courthouse wedding, but to qualify for certain housing together they needed to be married.  

 

 

But the state *isn't* staying out of it. Also, iirc our marriage license was more along the lines of $30, maybe even less - certainly nowhere remotely near $500. 

Edited by luuknam
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https://www.usmarriagelaws.com/marriage-license/application/fees-cost.shtml

 

Someone mentioned $500 for a courthouse wedding. According to this website, most states charge about $40 for a marriage license. I think the highest was a little more than $100. I got married by a Justice of the Peace and her fee was probably about $50-75. So most people who supposedly “can’t afford a wedding†are using it as an excuse because they don’t want to get married or because they’ve been sold the idea that a wedding *requires* anything more than a judge, witnesses, and a license.

 

I am becoming more convinced that having a specific line, such as clearly married or not married, is important. It is easy for people to say they are committed to a relationship, loan, paying a certain amount for something, etc. I think having to take the vow or sign the contract forces people to really, really consider whether they are ready to follow through on whatever deal they said they made. If officially signing/marrying/whatever didn’t matter, why else would so many people bail at the altar or hesitate to sign an expensive contract on a house, job, etc?

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Does there? Like, if I live together with my best friend for 10 years without being in a romantic relationship, would we need that? If we live together in a romantic relationship, but keep all our finances separate, do we need that? Why can't we just treat people like adults, and let them decide whether to enter into a legal contract or not, rather than make it automatic if they happen to cohabit and sleep together for a certain period of time?

 

You might well benefit from it even if you were in a platonic relationship, and it is possible to do that here, though you have to formalize it.  In general though, people do not have quite the same kinds of issues with roommates. There aren't the same issues of emotional attachment and duty of care and health questions, etc.

 

But in terms of long-term sexual cohabitation, I think yes, there does.  It doesn't need to be identical to the rules for marriage, it isn't here.  If you in fact kept your finances completely separate, both partners would, under that law, leave with what they came in with.  Realistically though I think in many cases that does not happen, and the longer the relationship the more true that is.  People acquire property together.  They make decisions that would have been different had they been alone.  They feel obligation to their partner, whatever the fact of their legal status is.

 

These are many of the same reasons legal protections in marriage came to exist.  Not because it was seen as different than long-term cohabitation, but because it was seen as the same - a basic human relationship which comes with certain baggage and potential problems.  It isn't fundamentally a legal contract, any more than citizenship is a legal contract.  It's a relationship.

 

 

 

Marriage with a license has a definite start date. How do you determine the start date for cohabiting? I’ve listened to two different podcasts where the guest psychologists stated that most people “slide†into cohabiting gradually, rather than ever officially decide to do it. One starts out with having a drawer in the nightstand and their stuff gradually moves in. So when did the cohabiting start? This sounds like it would be a legal mess when they split up with lawyers arguing about if one staying most, but not all nights counted, or if they technically lived together but one kept their old apartment, etc.

 

 

I've never heard of this being a particular problem.  Common law provisions are not unusual, so I'd say they have managed to find ways of determining this that work.

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Marriage provides fairly extensive protections to women or anyone functioning as a family caregiver for an intimate partner in community property states. Have you ever been though a divorce?

 

 

No, I haven't. However, there are only 9 community property states, and our net worth was roughly zero when we moved to NY, and even though we got married in a community property state, that doesn't help me at all now (which I think is really wrong, btw... if you got married as community property, it should stay that way). So, being married doesn't do jack for me in the event of a divorce because NY is a screw-you state. But yes, I get your point that it can be beneficial for *some* people... though realistically, if you want to be an ass, you could just move to a non-community property state before filing divorce papers. 

 

ETA: in which case the stuff accrued before the move *might* be split 50-50, if you don't just spend it all into oblivion first... either way, it's a legal mess. 

Edited by luuknam

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Does there? Like, if I live together with my best friend for 10 years without being in a romantic relationship, would we need that? If we live together in a romantic relationship, but keep all our finances separate, do we need that? Why can't we just treat people like adults, and let them decide whether to enter into a legal contract or not, rather than make it automatic if they happen to cohabit and sleep together for a certain period of time?

 

In any case,  do you think that people generally do that?  Plenty don't, and yet they still separate and it still needs to be managed.

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The problem in the UK is that so many people believe it exists and provides protection. In fact it doesn't exist in England and Wales, and is very limited in Scotland. So a lot of people don't bother to get married, thinking that they will automatically have rights anyway. Nope.

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In any case,  do you think that people generally do that?  Plenty don't, and yet they still separate and it still needs to be managed.

 

 

I have no idea what other people do. I was just trying to figure out your opinions on this matter, since you were saying you thought this should be more broad. 

 

Another problem with common law marriage is that if that link Jean posted is true, it's sexist, in that it only applies to heterosexual couples. Since gay marriage is legal, you'd think gay common law marriage should be legal too. But really, between the confusion about different state laws, the ease to get married the normal way, etc, I don't see a point in it. 

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I think that the # of marriages in Canada that are common law is close to 20%.  It's not insignificant.  Many people never bother to get married.

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I have no idea what other people do. I was just trying to figure out your opinions on this matter, since you were saying you thought this should be more broad. 

 

Another problem with common law marriage is that if that link Jean posted is true, it's sexist, in that it only applies to heterosexual couples. Since gay marriage is legal, you'd think gay common law marriage should be legal too. But really, between the confusion about different state laws, the ease to get married the normal way, etc, I don't see a point in it. 

 

It applies to all couples who can marry here.  It may be that in the link Jean gave the laws just haven't caught up yet.  I remember there being at least a few that needed to be changed here after the original change to the law, something to do with the divorce provisions.

 

The laws for this aren't necessarily the same in every place.  That being the case, I'm commenting on the idea generally, some particular legal constructs might be better than others.

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I don’t think the protections of divorce and inheritance are vague or unimportant. They are actually probably among the most important aspects of civil marriage.

 

It’s not just divorce. It’s also being next of kin and not taxed on the transfer of most assets after losing a spouse or de facto spouse.

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In Canada, you have to live together for 6mths to be considered common law.  In the event of a break up assets can be split 50-50.  My son's common law relationship ended after 4 years.  They have two kids.  The ex partner is entitled to 50% of his pension for the portion of the time that they were together.  At this point they have agreed to 50-50 custody with no support being paid.  They have not been to court yet.  She doesn't want any support from him.  I suspect this will change in the future when circumstances change for her.  In that case he will probably be on the hook for arrears.

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The problem in the UK is that so many people believe it exists and provides protection. In fact it doesn't exist in England and Wales, and is very limited in Scotland. So a lot of people don't bother to get married, thinking that they will automatically have rights anyway. Nope.

 

Exactly. People have a very distorted idea of it. 

 

ETA: It kind of seems worth a public information campaign! 

Edited by katilac

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I'm technically in a common law marriage.

 

Where I live (Ontario), once you've lived as a couple in the same residence for 12 consecutive months you are automatically considered (as far as Canada Revenue Agency is concerned) in a common-law marriage.

 

I actually hate it. I'm divorced, and I didn't want to remarry legally. My partner and I are happy to just cohabitate, and don't plan to ever legally get married. It shouldn't be automatic, IMO. When we moved in together, I was a single mom who worked and had access to subsidized daycare (proportionate to my income) - the second we hit 12 months, CRA (as well as my daycare subsidy peeps) started to take into account my partner's income. Yes, we were living together and yes he was a step-parent to my kids, but it felt like they were overstepping by assuming his income would be now covering all the costs of my kids needs (daycare etc). After only 12 months? I personally think it should be longer before common-law status kicks in.

 

Either way, it is what it is and hasn't been a huge deal really - I call him my hubby/husband occasionally, but we aren't married legally. I do sometimes get a bit cranky about the fact that the government has decided I'm married before my partner and I even had discussed ever getting married lol.

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I do sometimes get a bit cranky about the fact that the government has decided I'm married before my partner and I even had discussed ever getting married lol.

 

It does seem a bit rude! 

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https://www.usmarriagelaws.com/marriage-license/application/fees-cost.shtml

 

Someone mentioned $500 for a courthouse wedding. According to this website, most states charge about $40 for a marriage license. I think the highest was a little more than $100. I got married by a Justice of the Peace and her fee was probably about $50-75. So most people who supposedly “can’t afford a wedding†are using it as an excuse because they don’t want to get married or because they’ve been sold the idea that a wedding *requires* anything more than a judge, witnesses, and a license.

 

I am becoming more convinced that having a specific line, such as clearly married or not married, is important. It is easy for people to say they are committed to a relationship, loan, paying a certain amount for something, etc. I think having to take the vow or sign the contract forces people to really, really consider whether they are ready to follow through on whatever deal they said they made. If officially signing/marrying/whatever didn’t matter, why else would so many people bail at the altar or hesitate to sign an expensive contract on a house, job, etc?

 

I suspect the $500 was not just for the ceremony, but for the outfits and the dinner they planned afterwards... until they realized it wasn't in the budget and common law was so much cheaper than doing their wedding in a way they didn't want anyway.

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It does seem a bit rude!

Lol not to mention presumptuous - I mean, yes we shared our rent and bills etc, but we definitely didn't have joint accounts or any shared property (house, car etc). 12 months is a bit speedy for the gov't to decide we're married. IMO anyway. I mean, we've lived together now for just about 6 years so as far as we're concerned, we're fine with now being considered common-law. I was pretty miffed about it at the beginning though.

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I thought clm was from when people had to wait months (or more) just to find someone to perform a marriage ceremony, let alone have the money to pay for it.

 

Now , it's easy to find a jp, and fairly inexpensive. No woman is forced to cohabit.

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I thought clm was from when people had to wait months (or more) just to find someone to perform a marriage ceremony, let alone have the money to pay for it.

 

Now , it's easy to find a jp, and fairly inexpensive. No woman is forced to cohabit.

 

I see your point but I disagree.  I've come across more than a few women who are for various reasons, tied emotionally or by shared children to a man who won't marry them but won't let them leave either.  With domestic violence and other factors in the mix, it can be hard to parse who really can choose to walk away from terms of a relationship they do not like.  

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I'm technically in a common law marriage.

 

Where I live (Ontario), once you've lived as a couple in the same residence for 12 consecutive months you are automatically considered (as far as Canada Revenue Agency is concerned) in a common-law marriage.

 

That seems FAR too short a time frame. When I mentioned upthread that I thought marriage should be something that one has to actively opt out of after a certain period of time, I was thinking 20+ years. I'm not exactly sure how long my relative and his partner have been together but I know it's been at least 25 years. There's a HUGE difference between spending decades cohabiting with someone and spending a single year with him/her.

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In Alberta it's 3 years of being a "domestic and economic unit" -- unless some specific things happen (ie having a child together) to accelerate the process.

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The problem in the UK is that so many people believe it exists and provides protection. In fact it doesn't exist in England and Wales, and is very limited in Scotland. So a lot of people don't bother to get married, thinking that they will automatically have rights anyway. Nope.

 

This is somewhat similar here in a way - in my province and I think some others.  

 

We have it, but people sometimes don't realize it's a bit different than some think.  Whereas a regular marriage will then pretty much own all things in common and they will be split 50/50 if they separate, with a common law relationship that usually only applies to assets that are acquired after the marriage.

 

So people sometimes think they are protected in exactly the same way and get a nasty surprise.

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