Social Question

flo's avatar

Which do think is better marriage, or common law, and why?

Asked by flo (7643 points ) January 28th, 2013

If you want your potential SO to know that you don’t love him/her for his/her money, is common law the way to go?

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25 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I would go with a conventional marriage. It says commitment and permanence.

woodcutter's avatar

Hopefully the relationship had progressed to the point where it was obvious.

flo's avatar

@marinelife @woodcutter how about the detail part?
@woodcutter Marriage is the obvious option if you have a strong relashinship?

marinelife's avatar

There are lots of ways to handle the money thing, Pre-nups, for one. I would not let that keep me from marrying.

chyna's avatar

There is also the whole medical issue, where you may not be allowed to make medical decisions for your S/O if you are not married.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Common law marriages are messy. For starters, most people don’t even know what will and won’t create a common law marriage, and it can be difficult to establish when the marriage began (no documentation, and no public record on file).

If you want to be married to someone and are willing to make that lifelong commitment, slip away to city hall, make it official, and avoid all that doubt and ambiguity.

flo's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul but you could have a documentation/contract for common law too just like you can for marriage right? This is for rich people who can’t tell why someone loves them.

YARNLADY's avatar

In the U. S. only 9 states recognize common law marriage for the purposes of tax, insurance, property and inheritance protection. In all the other states, if you are simply living together, you do not have any of the protections that married couples have.

flo's avatar

So, @YARNLADY in the 9 states common law is treated the same as marriage?

woodcutter's avatar

Money shouldn’t be on the front burner but it often is. In some states the common law hitch is binding as soon as you trade spit.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@YARNLADY The last time I researched this, approximately 12 states and the District of Columbia still contract common law marriages.

Nonetheless, the marriages are portable. All states—including those that do not contract common law marriages within their boundaries—recognize a valid common law marriage from another state.

So, if you have a common law marriage from, say, Texas, it’s valid and binding in all 50 states. And, there’s no such a thing as common law divorce.

Editorial comment—This is the very reason why the despicable Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down by the Supreme Court. Under the doctrine of per lex loci celebrationis, a same-gender marriage created under, say, Massachusetts law is binding in all states.

flo's avatar

What is the Defense of Marriage Act @SadieMartinPaul

flo's avatar

“In some states the common law hitch is binding as soon as you trade spit.” Does that sound like a sensible law?

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@flo That statement is satirical and untrue.

In a state that contracts common law marriages, two people become husband and wife when they (1) cohabitate and (2) hold themselves forth as married, by habit and repute. A common law marriage is a fully legal marriage that has been contracted in an irregular way, i.e. under common rather than statutory law.

The Defense of Marriage Act is a 1996 law stating that the federal government, and no state or political subdivision, is required to recognize a same-gender marriage from another state. This law is, at long last, being challenged, and it won’t hold up.

zenvelo's avatar

For most purposes, common law marriage really isn’t marriage. It’s called “living together”, and in the past it was called “shacking up.” I don’t care one way or another of that is someone’s choice, but don’t try to justify it or dignify it by calling it “marriage.”

Marriage is an act of commitment and caring, and in general provides stability. That is why same sex couples fight so strongly for the right. “Common law marriage” does not carry those benefits.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Correction to a typo in my last post. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government isn’t required to recognize same-gender marriages. So far, the federal government affords no marital rights to gay marriages created under valid state laws, and neither does any state that refuses to recognize same-gender marriages.

@zenvelo Please forgive this correction, but a common law marriage is very much a legal, binding marriage. A common law marriage isn’t the same thing as “shacking up” with no intention of being a married couple. Two people, married under common law, are as married as any people who stand before a judge, justice of the peace, or clergyman and join together under statutory law. Nobody can walk away from a common law marriage; a conventional divorce is required and, without it, someone who remarries is bigamist.

Given all this, why would anyone want to be in a common law marriage? Such relationships are complicated, difficult to verify, and burdened by facts-and-circumstances arguments. If you want to be married, just get married!

woodcutter's avatar

Common law will bite when there is a falling out and one party gets a lawyer to press it. Of course it really won’t matter unless one of them had a shit ton of stuff the other didn’t pre hook up.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@woodcutter Common law marriage is a mess, and lawyers can’t easily push through a challenge or dispute. Examples of how to defend and uphold a common law marriage—showing an invitation addressed to “Mrs. and Mrs. _____”; having registered at a hotel as a married couple; deposing neighbors, family members, and co-workers to state that, yeah, he/she referred to this person as his/her wife/husband; filing a joint income tax return (yes, this one’s huge); having a policy for spousal health insurance coverage (even huger).

bookish1's avatar

You know, it would be nice to have the option for either.

susanc's avatar

Maybe we should be talking about the difference between a religious wedding and a civil union, too.

wundayatta's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul I don’t know what makes you so sure that this Supreme Court won’t uphold the DMA. They don’t care about precedent. They are activist judges, just like the conservatives don’t like when the activismis of a liberal nature.

Common law marriages don’t address the financial issue, OP. Once you’re married, you’re married, and your property is held in common. It doesn’t matter how you get married. So you couldn’t use a common law marriage to prove you weren’t marrying someone for their money.

As others have said, the only way to do that is with a prenuptual agreement in which the poorer partner abjures any inheritance upon the death of the spouse. But if there is any issue that a marriage is about money, and this bothers one or both partners, then it seems to me they shouldn’t get married.

downtide's avatar

Common law can be legally complicated, especially if one partner dies or becomes ill and needs medical care. It can also complicate the splitting up of assets if the couple parts ways. So from a practical and legal point of view, a traditional marriage is certainly easier.

However I do reccommend that any couple live together for at least a year before doing either, just so they can be sure they are fully compatible with each other.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@wundayatta “I don’t know what makes you so sure that this Supreme Court won’t uphold the DMA.”

I’m not sure at all, just optimistic and hopeful.

flo's avatar

If let’s say:
You lived with some multi-billionaire for many years hoping he will marry you,
on the outset he absolutley made it clear that there will be no marriage, (it was proven in court),
and you married him just for his money, (if it was proven in court)
would you get alimony or would the court tell you to “get out of town you shameless gold digger.”

flo's avatar

Thanks everyone for your responses.

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