Oklahoma Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage is valid in Oklahoma. What starts out as cohabitation can easily morph into more over time. Common law marriage is a complicated subject and, unfortunately, most couples involved in common law marriages find out about their status when there is a problem.
This can occur when one of the partners wants to end the relationship, but it can also happen when a couple seeks to adopt or when handling the estate after the death of one of the partners. If a couple is involved in a valid common law marriage, they must get a divorce to end the relationship legally. A family law attorney in Muskogee can help you with any issues that arise in your common law marriage.
Determining if There is a Common Law Marriage
Generally speaking, courts become involved in the question of whether a common law marriage exists far after a couple has begun cohabitating. Usually, the issue arises in addition to another that is before the court.
For example, if one partner dies without a will in place, the other may file probate claiming a spouse’s intestate share. The issue of the status of the common law marriage would be heard as part of that proceeding. The party looking to prove the existence of the common law marriage must prove its existence with clear and convincing evidence. This can be a difficult standard to meet.
Courts look to a number of factors to determine if a common law marriage exists. First and foremost, courts will look to the agreement of the parties. The court will look to seek if the parties intended to and agreed to be held out as married.
This can often be difficult to prove, so courts look at what the couple says and how the partners act over time. This can be proven by actual statements made by the parties, but it can also be proven by looking to external evidence.
The Role of External Evidence
How a couple holds itself out to the world matters. One of the main tools someone uses to prove that a common law marriage exists is financial records. Tax returns, deeds, life insurance beneficiary declarations, and bank accounts can all refer to a spouse.
For example, when a couple files joint tax returns, they are essentially holding themselves out as married. Tax returns are signed under penalty of perjury, meaning that you attest to the truthfulness of the statements made in them.
Another clear example often used is an affidavit submitted by one partner to their employer attesting to the marriage to obtain employer-covered medical insurance for the other partner. This can later be used as evidence that the couple considered themselves to be married.
Taking the partner’s last name, owning property as married partners, and wearing wedding bands are all evidence of an intent to be married. Likewise, the lack of this kind of evidence points to a lack of intent.
The Role of Oral Statements
Sometimes, partners refer to their partner as their husband or wife in the presence of others. These types of statements can also be valuable evidence of the intent to be married. This type of evidence is generally not as strong as documentary evidence, but it can be used together with documentary evidence to show intent and agreement. The greater the number and frequency of the statements made, the stronger the evidence becomes.
Ending a Common Law Marriage
Because common law marriages are so casual in the beginning, the end of the relationship is often treated equally casually. The partners move out and go on with their lives, assuming that the relationship and all it entails is over.
However, once established, a common law marriage must be legally dissolved through a divorce. Failure to do so puts you at risk for a number of other problems later.
If one partner later dies a wealthy man, the other partner can seek to inherit their money. Also, one partner may marry someone else without realizing that the new marriage is bigamous. You cannot be married to two people at the same time in Oklahoma. The IRS may later audit your tax returns if you filed as married and then failed to continue to do so. These are just several examples of unintended consequences from the failure to legally end the relationship.
This is a complicated area of the law and, by the time people are asking these questions, they may already be facing some unintended consequences. Getting legal help can make it much easier to straighten out the problems you might be facing. A Muskogee divorce attorney can help in your specific circumstances.
Free Consultation with a Muskogee Common Law Marriage Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about your legal status, bring them to an experienced Muskogee Attorney. They can answer your questions and help you handle your situation. For a free consultation, call 918-884-7774 today. You may also schedule a free, confidential consultation by going to the home page and clicking “request a consultation.”