Divorce Guide

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Common Law Divorce


Common law divorce is valid for common law marriages. For understanding common law divorce, we first need to understand the concept of common law marriage. Common law marriage is also known as informal marriage or de facto marriage. Some states of USA recognize a common law marriage which means that if a couple is residing with each other like husband and wife in a state for a long time they can be considered to be married for all practical purposes.

Common law marriage implies that although the couple is not legally married or have tied the knot in the Church, they are still considered as man and wife. The question is: If the couple is not legally married how can they be recognized as formal husband and wife in the eyes of the law? Common law marriage can be proved simply by staying together for a considerable number of years, having joint bank accounts, wife using husbandís surname, having bought insurance policy with joint names and other official ways to show that the couple is one for all legal purposes. The common law marriages can be jointly registered under a county agency as a proof of marriage.

In a common law marriage, the couples are legal heirs of each otherís inheritance unless specified otherwise. For example, Susan and Peter were common law married and stayed in Texas. Susan died due to heart attack. Her husband Peter claimed the gratuity and other benefits that her employer had to offer after Susanís death.

A common law married couple is eligible for common law divorce and the family court treats them in the same way as it does any legally married couple. All the state laws related to divorce are also applicable to a couple who can prove that they are common law married. However, if the couple used to stay together earlier and have been staying separately for some years then they cannot be considered common law married. For example, in Texas, if the common law married couple are not staying with each other for 2 years then they are no more married.

The states that recognize common law marriages also consider the couples eligible for common law divorce. Common law married couples have to undergo the same process of divorce as legally married couples do. They can opt for uncontested divorce, contested divorce or mediation. It would be better if a common law married couple hire a lawyer who has experience in fighting common law divorce cases.

Even if the common law married couple shift to another state which does not recognize common law marriage, they are eligible for divorce in that state.

Not all states in USA recognize common law marriage as legal. A few states that recognize common law marriage are Alabama, South Colorado, Texas, Montana, Utah, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kansas, Pennsylvania and a few more. In Pennsylvania the common marriages registered till January 2005 are considered legal.

Common law divorce is definitely possible if you have enough evidence to show that you are common law married couple. Merely staying together does not qualify you as legal couple; rather you have to create enough official evidence to prove your informal marriage. Then only, you can request the court for a formal divorce.


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