A fact about common law marriage Connecticut residents may already know is that it isn’t recognized in their state. Yet, the state may still recognize these marriages in some special cases.
We put together this piece to shed more light on common law marriage under Connecticut law and cohabitation agreements in the state.
What Is Common Law Marriage?
Common law marriage is a relationship involving two individuals who live together, agree that they’re married, and present themselves as a married couple. Still, there are legal requirements for common law marriage. The parties entering a common law marriage must have the legal right to marry. What’s more, they must intend to be married.
The amount of time for which parties must live together to be considered common-law married varies by state. These marriages usually don’t follow legal formalities, like a marriage license.
Elements of Common Law Marriage
While the elements of common law marriage may vary from state to state, the primary elements include:
- The parties holding themselves out to the public as a married couple.
A Common law spouse can present their partner to the public officially by:
- Adopting the other person’s last name
- Opening and using joint bank accounts
- Filing joint federal and state tax returns
- Referring to themselves as husband and wife
Does Connecticut Recognize Common Law Marriage?
No. Connecticut has never and doesn’t recognize common law marriage. As such, the state doesn’t accord any legal rights or consequences to unmarried couples who cohabitate in a long-term relationship. Such rights could be alimony and property division rights. A common myth is that an unmarried couple can become common-law married if they cohabitate for long enough.
There is an exception to the general rule that Connecticut doesn’t recognize common law marriage. The validity of a non-ceremonial marriage in Connecticut will depend on the law of the state in which the relationship was entered. If a couple entered into a common law marriage in a state that recognizes it, then Connecticut will recognize that marriage.
Common Law Marriage by State
While Connecticut doesn’t recognize common law marriage, some states still do. Some of these jurisdictions recognize informal marriage unconditionally, while others have some restrictions. Below are the jurisdictions and any restrictions they place on the recognition of common law marriage.
- Alabama: No restriction
- Colorado: No restriction
- District of Columbia: No restriction
- Georgia: Only those entered into before January 1, 1997
- Idaho: Only those entered into before January 1, 1996
- Iowa: No restriction
- Kansas: Only if both partners are at least 18 years old
- Montana: No restriction
- New Hampshire: Only for purposes of probate
- Ohio: Only those entered into before October 10, 1991
- Oklahoma: Only those entered into before November 1, 1998
- Pennsylvania: Only those entered into before January 1, 2005
- Rhode Island: No restriction
- South Carolina: No restriction
- Texas: Only if registered at a county courthouse or by proving the elements of common law marriage.
- Utah: Only if a court or administrative order validates it.
Connecticut Marriage Laws
Connecticut family law addresses, among many issues, eligibility for marriage. To enter into a marriage in the state, both parties must have attained the age of majority (18 years). Minors aged 16 and 17 can also enter into a marriage with a written consent from the parent and approval of the Probate court. The court may approve a minor’s marriage if it establishes the following:
- The parent or guardian consents to the marriage.
- The minor understands the nature and consequences of marriage, and thus consents to the marriage.
- The minor has the capacity to make such a decision.
- The decision to marry is voluntary and isn’t a result of coercion.
- The marriage wouldn’t be harmful to the minor.
Furthermore, the common law spouses should:
- Not be under conservatorship. Yet, they might be issued with a marriage license if the conservator gives consent. It should be written, signed, and acknowledged before an approved individual to take acknowledgements.
- Not be in another marriage or relationship that is categorized as marriage in Connecticut or another state. If any of the parties was previously married, they may have to provide the divorce date or a copy of the divorce decree.
- Not be prohibited from entering into marriage as per Section 46b-21 of the General Statutes of Connecticut. This law prohibits the marriage of individuals related by consanguinity or affinity.
Cohabitation Agreements in Connecticut
In Connecticut, unmarried couples living together don’t enjoy the same rights as married persons. Particularly, these parties may not enjoy rights to property acquired during their relationship. This is the case as marital property laws don’t apply to unmarried couples, even in lengthy relationships.
Cohabitation is defined as the act of two people dwelling together and conducting themselves as a married couple. Cohabiting partners may have a hard time dividing jointly owned property when their relationship ends. Also, there is no obligation of alimony attached to a cohabiting couple, unless this is expressed in an legally binding agreement.
Common law in Connecticut particularly applies to property. Connecticut is a common law property state. Any property acquired by a spouse during marriage is separate, unless they agree to co-own the property with their partner. Cohabitation agreements help address issues of property acquired during the relationship.
So, can unmarried couples establish rights as married spouses? Yes, and this is where cohabitation agreements come in. Many long-term partners appreciate the need to commit to a financial agreement in case their relationship ends. With a cohabitation agreement, property division upon breaking up becomes simpler.
– Legality of a Cohabitation Agreement
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that helps protect individuals’ rights as couples. It also helps safeguard their assets and interests. Some ways in which unmarried couples can create a cohabitation or non-marital agreement include:
- Having oral and written contracts detailing marital rights, like rights to jointly-owned property.
- Creating an implied cohabitation agreement without discussion or writing. A court will check the couple’s actions to establish whether the agreement was implied.
- In the absence of an implied agreement, the court may conclude that the parties meant to “deal fairly with one another.” In such a case, the court grants unmarried rights and obligations based on equity and fairness.
– Elements of an Effective Cohabitation Agreement
For a cohabitation agreement to be valid, it has to meet the requirements of a valid contract. It should also be comprehensive, to prevent disputes on issues that may not have been addressed in the agreement. An effective cohabitation agreement should cover the following subject matters:
- Property division in the event of death or breakup.
- Division or ownership of the principal house upon breakup or death of a partner.
- Spousal support during or after the relationship.
- Creation of joint tenancy or tenancy in common with right to survivorship.
- Child support, custody, or visitation rights. However, a court may reject or modify this based on a child’s best interests.
- Responsibility for healthcare insurance.
- Creation of healthcare directives or power of attorney to allow a partner to make a decision on behalf of the other in case of incapacity.
- Connecticut family law attorneys can help couples understand how to create effective cohabitation agreements if they’re looking to stay unmarried.
Other Useful Documents for Cohabitating Partners
In addition to — or in place of — a cohabitation agreement, partners may choose to create durable powers of attorney and wills. These documents can help fulfill a person’s wishes in the event of incapacitation or death. Wills are particularly important as they direct the distribution of one’s property upon death.
Further, a will helps prevent intestate succession. Under the laws of intestate succession in Connecticut, an unmarried partner isn’t entitled to any property upon the death of their partner. However, this can be prevented by having a cohabitation agreement or will.
Durable powers of attorney are also vital for unmarried partners in Connecticut. They act as permission slips, giving another person the authority to act on your behalf in case of incapacitation. Without a power of attorney, unmarried partners typically have no power to make decisions on financial and health matters.
Throughout this article, we’ve answered some of the commonest questions regarding common law marriage in CT. Here’s a recap to help you better understand the topic of common law marriage in the state:
- Connecticut doesn’t recognize common law marriages.
- Regardless of the length, a long-term romantic relationship between unmarried couples can’t become a common law marriage.
- Connecticut only recognizes a common law marriage that was entered into in a state that recognizes such marriages.
- Marriage in Connecticut is chiefly validated through acquisition of a marriage license.
- Unmarried couples in Connecticut can confirm their relationship by creating cohabitation agreements, wills, and powers of attorney.
There’s no such thing as common law marriage in Connecticut. If you want to enjoy the same rights as married spouses, there are options you can explore. Cohabitation agreements, wills, and powers of attorney can grant unmarried partners rights and obligation in case of death or split-up.
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