April 25, 2010
Common Law Marriage - A Meaningless, Legal, Quasi-Union, Relationship Status
Each state has different rules governing common law relationships. Some recognize them as legally binding relationships with all the perks and down-sides of a conventional marriage while others do little more than recognize a state of co-habitation leaving issues of parting ways to the courts to settle in the name of "palimony" law suites and the like.
According to lawyer.com, most US states do not recognize common law marriages created within their borders although they are obliged to recognize these marriages if established within the borders of another state which does recognize these unions.
Japanlaw.info states that the supreme court of Japan does recognize common law marriages as does, according to listserve.headnet.ie, Ireland. Other countries include but are not limited to Israel and Australia. In Canada, marriage falls under the jurisdiction of provincial governments as it does fall to state governments in the United States of America. Most Canadian provinces have laws recognizing common law marriages or laws governing de facto unions - a form of marriage equivalency.
In all cases, there are conditions and qualifications to recognizing relationships as "common law marriages" or "de facto unions". These conditions would include co-habitation for a pre-determined period of time, living as a couple, and may include other conditions designed to prove a relationship equivalent to a real marriage. These relationships do, almost invariable, carry some socio-economic benefits with them including, in many states, insurance benefits, survivor benefits and more.
Almost all of us are acquainted with some couples who participate or have participated in these relationships ... and if we know enough of these couples we will invariably have witnessed breakups in these relationships.
So what is, in fact, my issue with these fake marriages? Well, firstly, to call them "marriage" in any form is a lie. Watching breakups of common law marriages and de facto unions clearly demonstrates the dishonesty in the titles which define these relationships.
Have you ever watched an amicable break-up of one of the ersatz marriages? Here's what I've always heard, "Well, we were never married." In other words, "When it suits them (when there are benefits to be had) they're married and are entitled to all the social and legal benefits of being in a committed relationship commonly referred to as 'marriage'. When the relationship ends they get out nice 'n easy with none of the legal hassles. They divide up their possessions and simply move on."
Any ensuing fights over money and/or other assets may be dragged into the courts (sucking away valuable time which could be used for more legitimate legal matters) with the parties fighting over the nature of their relationship, who contributed what and all the other issues that surround the break-up of real marriages.
Here's the thing folks: If you want to be referred to as married and if you want the legal and social benefits of being married - get married! Otherwise, leave the rest of the world alone. Either you're married or not and if you haven't formalized it through registered legal documentation then you and your pretend relationship can go get stuffed!