Common law marriage in Idaho is a legal union that does not require ceremonial formalities, such as a license and ceremony. In some ways, it is similar to traditional marriage in that the parties must live together, share expenses, raise children under the same roof, and maintain their financial affairs in common.
However, unlike a traditional marriage, there is no documentation or licensing process required for a couple to become married in this way. In this article, we discuss the validity of common law marriages in Idaho.
Does Idaho Recognize Common Law Marriage?
No, Idaho does not recognize common-law marriages established after January 1, 1996. However, similar marriages predating 1996 are still recognized by the state. If a couple agreed to live together, share expenses, raise children under the same roof and maintain their financial affairs in common but did not go through a ceremonial process, they are considered to be in a common law marriage.
If cohabitation between two parties who meet certain qualifications were proven in court, it would be possible for them to have a legal contract recognized as being married without any official documentation or license from a state official. Few requirements exist for this type of union to be considered legitimate.
It must be established that the couple lives together, shares assets and expenses, has raised children together, and shared finances in all ways including joint bank accounts.
The significance of this contract is only when the couple’s rights are challenged. In most cases when this happens, the courts will resort to a common law marriage as a basis for certain rights and protections.
How To Prove Common Law Marriage
To be recognized as common-law spouses in Idaho, the two parties must meet the following requirements:
- Both parties must have been unmarried and at least 18 years
- There must have been consent between the parties to become husband and wife, which could be oral, in writing, or implied from their conduct
- After consenting, both parties assumed Idaho marriage rights and obligations to each other
- The parties must have consented to be husband and wife and assumed marital rights, duties, and obligations while living in Idaho
When an unmarried couple files for benefits or initiates legal action, they are recognized as a married couple without any official documentation or license from a state official. For this to occur, they must have lived together, shared expenses, raised children under the same roof, and maintained their financial affairs in common.
It is particularly important to have their common law marriage recognized for situations where their rights are challenged. In most cases when this occurs, the courts will resort to a common law marriage as a basis for certain rights and protections.
– Child Custody and Support
Provided an Idaho common law marriage is recognized by the law, spouses have marital rights like spouses who are traditionally married. As such, both spouses have the right to custody of their child and the obligation to support them financially through child support.
If common law spouses decide to separate or divorce, they must deal with the issue of child custody and support like any other traditionally married couple. Whether they do this through a prenuptual agreement or go to court, the principle of “a child’s best interests” still applies when making this decision.
During divorce or separation, there may be a need for one spouse to provide financial assistance to the dependent spouse. Like in other marriages, a court can order a higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to their spouse, provided their common law marriage is validated by the court.
For a common law marriage that terminates through annulment, a spouse may not be entitled to alimony. This is because it is established that the marriage was not legitimate in the first place and that one spouse is not obligated to pay spousal support to the other spouse.
– Premarital Agreement
This refers to a contract entered into by an unmarried couple who plan to marry. A premarital agreement can be a vital contract in the validation of a common law marriage as it shows a couple’s intention of getting married. What’s more, it helps determine the rights of spouses regarding spousal support and property division upon termination of a marriage by divorce or death.
– Property Division
Idaho applies community property laws whenever spouses divide property. These laws provide that the assets and debts acquired by a couple after marriage should be shared equally between the spouses in case of a divorce. It follows that the property allocated, or the value of the property allocated to each spouse, has to be substantially equal.
If a couple acquired assets and shared expenses even without being officially married, they can be considered to be in a common law marriage in Idaho.
As such, any issues regarding property settlement have to be in line with Idaho’s community property laws.
Alternatives to Common Law Marriage
After 1996, a common law marriage contract in Idaho entered into by spouses remains invalid. As such, the state majorly recognizes traditional marriages as the only valid form of marriage.
– Traditional Marriage
A traditional marriage requires an official ceremony and a signed certificate of marriage before a state official at which time the qualifications of both spouses are documented on this certificate along with information about any prenuptial agreements they may have agreed upon.
After signing the document at least one spouse has to apply for their marriage license from the county clerk’s office. This typically requires state-issued identification cards, the couple’s social security numbers, birth certificates, and fee payment before the license is issued. Once this minimum qualification is met, the ceremony can proceed, officiated by a member of the clergy or state official—depending on religious beliefs or state law requirements.
Following this ceremony, any witnesses to it will sign the certificate. The officiant will then give one copy to each spouse who must complete anything required by local law for finalization of their marriage contract along with filing that document at their city/county clerk’s office within 30 days following their wedding date.
Common Law Marriage Problems in Idaho
The only real issue that often arises is when one party attempts to deny or avoid any rights or responsibilities of their current relationship due to it not having been concluded through an official wedding ceremony. This can sometimes present issues for both parties involved, such as difficulty obtaining joint children custody orders if one parent attempts to deny the other their common law marriage rights in a custody battle.
But why is this a problem for Idaho residents?
The standing legislation dictates that cohabitants who have been living together for an extended period without marrying are considered legally bound by all marriage laws. These include those pertaining to children born from parents within such a relationship.
Additionally, both parties also share joint responsibility when it comes to various debts and property division after death or divorce. This can be problematic if one party attempts to avoid taking on these obligations simply because they were not formally married.
– Avoiding Common Law Issues
To avoid issues regarding common law marriages in Idaho, potential common law couples should take the necessary steps before moving in together. First, they would need to prepare a written contract with the help of an attorney detailing each party’s rights and obligations, as well as those of their children should they decide to have any together.
Next, both parties should sign this document so there can be no misunderstanding regarding the nature of their relationship should an argument arise about it at a future date. What’s more, each spouse in a common law marriage should conduct themselves within the bounds of that agreement. Doing otherwise could undermine any legal claims either party may have to certain property in case their relationship ends via divorce or death.
Having a contract in place helps partners make provisions for who is responsible for what after the death of a spouse or divorce. Failure to do so could result in serious problems for those involved as judges often take into account evidence of a couple’s long-term intent to be considered married before granting a dissolution of such a relationship.
Common law marriages may still be recognized in Idaho depending on the date they were entered into.
Below, we look at the main things to recall regarding common law marriage in Idaho:
- Common law marriages predating 1996 are still recognized in Idaho
- Common law marriages established after January 1, 1996 in the state are invalid
- Unlike traditional marriages, common law marriages don’t require ceremonial formalities such as a marriage license and a wedding ceremony
- According to common law in Idaho, couples in a common law marriage have rights such as child custody and support, alimony, and property division upon divorce
Couples who have cohabited for a long time without getting married are often presumed to be in a common law marriage. Unmarried spouses can seek the advice of a lawyer to find out whether they have marital rights and obligations in their current relationship.
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