If you are living together, but holding off on getting married, you may wish to talk to a family law attorney in Michigan. There are many reasons couples put off getting married – they may be waiting until they’re more financially-secure, they may want to establish a career first, or they may simply not wish to get legally married.

According to the US News and World Report, US marriages hit an all time low in 2018, to 6.5 marriages per 1,000 people. During the pandemic, the marriage rate likely dropped even lower.

You may think that if you live together for a certain number of years, you are considered to be in a common-law marriage, but that’s a popular myth. The reality is that only certain States recognize common-law marriage, and even then, the definition of the relationship can be murky.

A good family law attorney in Michigan can help make sure you are set up to share rights and responsibilities in your relationship, and you’re protected should that relationship end.

What is the Difference between a Common-Law Marriage and a Marriage?

A common-law marriage is a marriage that is established informally – without registering for a marriage license or holding a religious ceremony. In the areas that recognize common-law marriages, the relationship is legally like a marriage.

Couples in valid common-law marriages can claim inheritance rights, social security benefits, employment benefits, and are treated like a married couple within the taxation system. They can also ask the court to divide property or award alimony should the relationship end.

Plus, when you live together, you bring your own property into the relationship, and may acquire valuable property together. Married couples have clearly defined property rights within the law. Unmarried couples do not, regardless how long they have lived together (or cohabitated).

Common-Law Marriages Are Only Allowed in a Few States

Common-law marriages are only recognized in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only), Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia.

Common law marriages are not permitted in Michigan.

If you move states, your common-law marriage may be recognized even if the new location doesn’t permit them, although you should check with a qualified family law attorney in Michigan to be certain.

Both Parties Must Intend to Be Married

Intent is a key requirement for establishing that you are in a common-law partnership. It may sound obvious. But if your relationship ends, in order to obtain the rights in a common-law marriage, you need to have proof that both of you treated and intended to treat your relationship like a marriage.

This can be extremely difficult to prove in court.

Because marriage is a more formal legal contract, the intent is obvious, and when a marriage ends, the path through the courts is clearer.

Ask a Family Law Attorney in Michigan to Help With a Cohabitation Agreement.

If you intend to live together in a relationship, but do not wish to be married, or if you have moved to Michigan from another state, there are a few ways a professional family law attorney in Michigan can help you.

One critical way is to help you draw up a Cohabitation Agreement.

A Cohabitation Agreement lays out ownership of existing assets, ownership of joint property (like homes, vehicles, etc.), how and if you intend to share assets, debt liability and expenses, how property will be divided if you separate, and a process for dispute resolution.

The document needs to be signed by both parties, and if challenged in court, a judge may ask for proof that both parties sought separate legal advice before completing the document. This helps ensure one party does not take advantage of the other.

So, while there are many online templates available for cohabitation agreements, you should have a lawyer look over your document to ensure it is legally-sound, and that signing it is in your best interest.

Looking For an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Michigan? Choose Stephanie Krane-Boehmer.

Serving Rochester Hills, and Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston and Wayne Counties in Michigan, Stephanie Krane-Boehmer has a wealth of experience in family law, wills, living wills, trusts, and bankruptcy. Stephanie is friendly, approachable and professional in all her dealings. Clients love how she breaks down complex law into easy-to-understand bites, and provides them with practical advice and insights. Contact Stephanie for a no-obligation consultation today.

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US News and World Report: U.S. Marriage Rate Hits Historic Low