DOES KANSAS RECOGNIZE
COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
With each passing year, the law continues to recognize different types of relationships. There are traditional marriages, civil unions, cohabitation, couples who have children together and may or may not live with each other, and common law marriages. Each type of relationship has unique state and federal legal benefits, financial benefits, and benefits regarding child custody and division of assets in the event that the relationship fails.
Some couples aren’t sure how the law defines their relationship and what their rights are under the law. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re in a common law marriage, or want to know what your legal rights are if you and your partner are splitting up, you may have many extremely important questions for which you need informed answers. Not having all of the information you need may put significant stress on you, your financial situation, and your relationships.
For more than 40 years, Jeffers Law Office has helped clients navigate the complexities of divorce and legal separation for all kinds of relationships. Having served clients in Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee, Leawood and Prairie Village, as well as throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth Counties in Kansas, attorney Mark T. Jeffers at Jeffers Law Office has used his experience to solve problems and bring some calm to uncertain and often contentious situations.
WHAT IS COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
Common law marriage recognizes couples in an equivalent way to couples who have a marriage license and exchange vows in a religious or civil setting. Generally, they must be a couple who present themselves as husband and wife even without the license and vows.
Simply living together for a long period of time and having children together doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a common law marriage. Your relationship must meet some legal standards.
IS COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
RECOGNIZED IN KANSAS?
Kansas recognizes common law marriage, but the relationship must meet certain standards. Those standards include:
1. BOTH PARTIES MUST HAVE THE CAPACITY
TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT TO MARRY.
Neither can be married to someone else, and the two parties cannot be closely related. Each party must also have the mental and physical capacity to wed, and they must be old enough to marry (age 18). Kansas has a specific statute stating that the state will not recognize a common law marriage contract if either party is under the age of 18.
2. THEY MUST HAVE A PRESENT
AGREEMENT TO BE MARRIED.
The two partners must have a “present agreement” to marry. This doesn’t mean it must be a written agreement, but both spouses must show that they intend to be married, not sometime in the future, but in the present. This agreement should be reflected in their behavior as a married couple and their mutual recognition of one another as a spouse.
3. THE PARTIES MUST PUBLICLY AND
PROFESSEDLY LIVE AS HUSBAND AND WIFE.
Family, friends, and their community must be able to recognize the two parties as a married couple. If the two parties have a general reputation as being seen as spouses in a marital relationship, then that should be enough to satisfy the requirement. The couple can also sign documents and file joint income tax returns, just as married couples do. They may also refer to one another as “husband” and “wife.”
While they may live together, there is no specific legal requirement for how long a couple must live together to have a common law marriage.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL EFFECTS
OF A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
Common law marriages don’t just end if one person walks away from it. Like traditional marriages, only divorce or death ends a common law marriage. The same Kansas family law statutes that dictate things like division of assets and debts, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance also apply to ending common law marriages.
The same terms also apply when common law and traditional couples choose legal separation instead of divorce. Property, custody, and maintenance issues are approved by the court. The parties are then free to enter into their own contracts, purchase assets, and live like unmarried people — however, they are not free to remarry or enter into a common law marriage with someone else until they file for divorce.
WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE AN
EXPERIENCED FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
The requirements to have a common law marriage recognized by the state can make it difficult to prove the nature of your relationship, especially if you’re trying to navigate this process on your own. The good news is, you don’t have to face this process alone. You have rights under common law marriage that can guarantee certain legal protections that simple cohabitation does not.
If you’re considering entering into or ending a common law marriage, you need to get accurate answers to protect yourself, your interests, your children’s interests, and your financial future. You deserve to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to remove the legal burden and stress of your situation.
Jeffers Law Office provides knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation for common law marriages, separation, and divorce in Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee, Leawood, Prairie Village, and throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth counties in Kansas.
Don’t wait. Reach out to Jeffers Law Office today to get the reliable legal counsel and representation you need. Call today to schedule a no-cost initial telephone consultation.