While the number of people living together has nearly doubled since 1981 without getting married because many are now afraid of the legal obligations of marriage, there remains a common misperception that if you live together for a certain length of time (seven years is what many people seem to believe), you are magically in a common-law marriage. This is just simply not true anywhere in the United States.
Some states recognize common-law marriages with stipulations such as proving cohabitation and a reputation of being married at bare minimum. Some states, like Alabama, recognize common-law marriages if there is 1) mental capacity; (2) an agreement to be husband and wife; and (3) consummation of the marital relationship. Other States like California do not recognize common-law marriages, but recognize civil unions or domestic partnership whereas one has rights to joint health care, estate planning and adoption benefits to unmarried couples who have registered as domestic partners. The law gives same-sex couples some of the essential resources necessary to protect their families and their relationships. You still have to pay a fee.
This post was published at Armstrong Economics on June 27, 2015.