Common Law Marriage Mess

You feel that loving feeling. One of you makes the offer for the other to move in. You feel like it is taking your relationship forward, to a new level. You make the move without the permanence of the marriage commitment.

Two years later, you find out you are going to be a parent. You move into a larger home in a new neighborhood. You still are not married, but you tell all your neighbors you live with your spouse. One assumes the others last name socially.

Life gets hard and so does the relationship. The relationship ends. Your total way of living is changed. You are looking for a new home, trying to recover the financial gaps of not sharing expenses and working through visitation.

You go to court to get things settled in writing and the judge dismisses the case because you are not legally married and there is not enough evidence that you are in a common law marriage.

You are on your own to figure it all out.

Problems With Common Law Marriages

Each state is different, however there are some things that hold true in most states.  We are not engaging in offering legal counsel and are not lawyers, but are sharing our experiences with working with couples over the years.

  • Cohabitation does not equal common law marriage. Just because you move in together does not give you the same legal rights of marriage.
  • Property is not equally yours. Unless your name is on the deed, leaser line, owner line, etc., vehicles and homes are not yours. They have the right to make you leave and take full possession.
  • In a medical emergency, you may not be able to visit. Your partner’s family will have the right to determine if you have access to your partner during any medical issues. Your partner’s family will have the right to make medical decisions on their behalf, instead of you.
  • If your partner dies, you may be out property you have contributed to purchasing. You are not automatically granted inheritance. Your partner’s life insurance pay out, property legally owned and other assets will be given legally to their closest relative instead of to you.
  • Your child is still yours. If you are on the child’s birth certificate, you are legally the child’s parent and therefore have the obligations and rights of that child’s parents, even if you are not longer together with their other parent.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9 (NIV)

The Benefits Of Marriage

  • Tax Benefits – Married couples enjoy tax benefits that couples cohabitating or in common law marriages do not enjoy.
  • Retirement Benefits – Spouses can contribute to each other’s retirement savings and penions can be split.
  • Asset Ownership – Assets are owned mutually and can be transferred without penalties to your spouse.
  • Inheritance – The spouse inherits and retains ownership of spouse’s assets at death.
  • Medical Decisions – The spouse is considered next of kin and the default decision maker regarding medical issues if the other spouse is incapacitated.
  • Legal Protection – If a spouse is charged in a case, the other spouse cannot be compelled to give damaging testimony about their spouse.
  • Married Couples Stay Together Better Marriage makes the relationship more permanent and sticky. Couples stick together. Studies show that cohabitating couples are between 35 and 80% more likely to end their relationship than those that marry.
  • Sex Is Better – Married couples have more sex and are more satisfied with their sexuality than couples who cohabitate.
  • Good Health – Married couples have better health and live longer than their counter parts.
  • Higher Income – Married couple have greater net worth and make more family income than their counter parts. Some believe there is still a promotion principle that a married person will be a more stable long term employee.

Make It Official And Get Married

While the average cost of a wedding is $26,444, couples can get married much cheaper.

  1. Consider taking a marriage education class (like Life Together Forever Weekend) and save $65 on a Texas Marriage License.
  2. Ask your minister if he’ll marry you very briefly as soon as a service is over. The audience will already be there and the bride can come down the aisle and meet the groom by the minister. An exchange of vows and a brief comment about the celebration of love and commitment, and you are married. A small gift can be given to the minister and you save the cost of the facilities!
  3. Most judges will preside over your marriage in their office for a nominal fee.
  4. Ask Roy to officiate your wedding (seriously)!

What do you have to say?

We love to hear from readers. Have you been in a cohabitation or common law marriage that did not work out?  Are you in a cohabitation relationship now? What is keeping you from making the marriage commitment?  What do you think about the inexpensive recommendations to make it official and get married?  Do you know someone you need to forward this article to?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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