Common Law Marriage: Casual Beginnings, Complicated Endings
Common law marriage can start with simple cohabitation. Partners move in together and, over time, their life together becomes complex. They may buy property together or save for vacations together. At some point, they may open a joint checking account to pay bills. So, at what point do they become legally married under the common law?
Common Law Marriage is Recognized Under Oklahoma Law
There are a handful of states that recognize common law marriage. Oklahoma is one of them. These marriages occur without the traditional ceremonial trappings of a wedding. These marriages began in the United States out of practicality.
Often, it was just too difficult to find a person to perform the ceremony. So, couples held themselves out as married, had children, and lived their lives as husband and wife. They agreed to be married and, by holding themselves out as married, they showed the world, through the evidence of their actions, of their intent to be married.
Fast forward to today. The law is the same. Over time, cohabitating couples can—sometimes inadvertently—hold themselves out in the world as married. By doing so, they will be deemed married under the law.
Holding Themselves Out as Married is Evidence of Intent
You may wonder if you have done this in the past and whether you are now married as a result. The answer is, it depends. If you have executed legal or financial documents over time as spouses would, you may now be married under the law. Generally, it is the intent to be married that must be proven here. Muskogee common law marriage attorneys can help you determine what your status is.
Here are a couple of examples of documents that couples may execute that can show evidence of their intent. Jane and Sam have been living together for the past 10 years. For the past 5 years, they have filed their taxes jointly as “married.” Maybe they did so because it was easier, or maybe they did so because they think of themselves as married.
Sam and Jane also bought a house together and hold it jointly as a married couple. Finally, Sam and Jane often refer to each other in public and among friends with endearments. Jane refers to Sam as “the husbandly.” Sam refers to Jane as “the wifeley.”
For all intents and purposes, if Sam and Jane break up, they may have to go through a divorce in order to legally sever their ties together. That is because by holding themselves out as married in Oklahoma, they may have become married under the common law, wedding or not.
A common law marriage is just as legally binding as a marriage in which a couple gets a license and has a wedding ceremony. The only way to end either of these is to file for divorce. To fail to do so can invite charges of bigamy upon a later marriage. It can also mean that a “spouse” remains legally liable for the debts and actions of their partner. Finally, it can entitle one spouse to “inheritance” rights long after a breakup.
If you don’t want to be considered to be in a common law marriage, an attorney from Wirth Law Office – Muskogee can help you draft a written agreement with your partner stating your intention to be recognized as separate individuals. If you are seeking to end a common law marriage, a Muskogee divorce attorney can help you understand your particular situation and what to do next.
Free Consultation with a Muskogee Common Law Marriage Lawyer
If you have questions or concerns about your legal status, bring them to an experienced Muskogee divorce attorney. We can answer your questions and help you handle the situation. Call us today at 918-884-7774. You may also schedule a free, confidential consultation by clicking “request a consultation.”