marriage

Common Law Marriages

Common law marriages can be a bit confusing, especially when you reside in a State that does not recognize them. While many unmarried couples residing in Massachusetts believe that they have a “common law” marriage simply through the passage of time, they are sadly mistaken. For some, the idea of having a large and lavish wedding is too cliché and simply unaffordable. To others, having some form of domestic partnership is simple and is what works for this particular couple. Which begs the ultimate question, do I need to have a legal wedding in order to obtain the status of being married? The short answer is yes. If you did not follow the State’s requirements on their website, then you very likely do not have a legal marriage.

Although some States recognize and enforce common law marriages, Massachusetts does not. The basic elements of a common law marriage are, and may vary from State to State:

  1. The couple agrees they are “married,”
  2. No one is currently married to someone else,
  3. Everyone is of legal age,
  4. The couple has lived together for a specific amount of time (as required by that particular State or jurisdiction), and
  5. The couple holds themselves out to the public as a married couple.

Generally speaking, if you meet these five requirements you likely have a common law marriage wherever you are residing. There is, however, one way in which you may have a common law marriage in Massachusetts that may be enforceable and recognized. If you and your partner were residing in and met the common law marriage requirements in another State or jurisdiction (such as Canada) and then you move to Massachusetts, your common law marriage is essentially transferred, and it may be recognized in this State under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution.

The issue of proving a common law marriage existed in another State or jurisdiction faces serious challenges in of itself. You will very likely need to produce evidence, such as text messages, emails, or other documents to prove this occurred. You will also very likely need to produce witnesses to testify regarding the nature of your relationship, such as the length and contributions of your “marriage.” These may be unrealistic or near impossible items to produce to a Court in Massachusetts. However, if you are seeking to terminate your common law marriage through a divorce, then proving a common law marriage existed in the first place is absolutely necessary. In some stances, you may be unable to effectively prove your common law marriage existed, which could lead you to file a Complaint for Paternity depending on your specific situation and goals.

If you believe you met the requirements for a common law marriage in another State or jurisdiction, are now living in Massachusetts, and are now considering a divorce then you should seek the advice of an experienced family law and divorce attorney. Call Sawin Law, P.C. today at 781-713-1212 to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.