If you think you’re in a common law marriage Vermont, it’s best to start by checking the validity of that marriage in the state. States have different laws regarding common law marriage, and such laws are continually changing over the years.
For this type of marriage, parties don’t have to go through legal formalities such as having a ceremony or getting a marriage license. This article discusses the validity of common law marriage in Vermont and its other aspects.
Does Vermont Recognize Common Law Marriage?
Vermont does not permit the establishment of common law marriages in its jurisdiction. However, if you’re in a valid common law marriage in a state that allows it and move to Vermont, your common law marriage will still be considered valid.
Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in Vermont
Vermont recognizes common law marriages established in other states due to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. It requires states to give “full faith and credit” to other states’ laws, including those regarding marriage.
But what about the spouses who worry about the validity of their common law marriage in Vermont may opt for a formal marriage for various reasons, including financial reasons and maintaining joint health insurance. However, contracting into a formal marriage isn’t an option for some. So, what options are viable for couples who want to remain unmarried and enjoy the rights and obligations of a common law marriage?
– Domestic Partnership Vermont
Vermont permits and legally recognizes relationships between couples who live together but aren’t married. A couple must live together for a certain period and be at least 18 years of age. Further, the couple can be same-sex or opposite-sex. In Vermont, same-sex couples are legally recognized, and their relationship is mainly referred to as a civil union.
To be a domestic partner in Vermont, parties must:
- Not be in another marriage or domestic partnership.
- Live together for at least six months before applying.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Not be closely related as they couldn’t marry.
- Have the capacity to enter a contract.
- Agree to support and be responsible for each other.
A domestic partnership or civil union in Vermont allows couples to share property while alive and inherit it upon the death of one party. Further, these relationships may confer medical care, employee benefits, and estate planning rights to the partners.
In Vermont, domestic partnerships also allow employees to get fringe benefits for their partners that would have otherwise been limited to married spouses. Further, Vermont provides domestic partner benefits to state employees through the State’s Personnel Policies and Procedures.
These benefits include medical benefits, visitation, and bereavement rights. Unmarried state employees who wish to receive health and dental insurance for their partners can contact the Department of Human Resources for an application.
– Relationship Agreement
Unmarried couples can sign cohabitation agreements to sort out property and finance issues before and during separation. Essentially, they serve a similar purpose as prenuptial agreements. If a cohabitation agreement isn’t about contracting sexual services and meets the requisites of a binding contract, a court can uphold and enforce it.
However, like with prenups, cohabitation agreements can’t dictate specific issues that concern children, such as custody and support. Usually, the court decides what is in the child’s best interest upon the divorce or separation of parents.
– Powers of Attorney
Another way unmarried couples in Vermont can establish their rights and obligations is by setting up powers of attorney. According to Vermont marriage laws, a competent party may assign another person the role of “attorney-in-fact” to handle their financial matters in the event of incapacitation.
Suppose there is a provision that a power of attorney shall not be affected by the principal’s subsequent incapacity or disability. In that case, it can be extended to when that person is incapacitated. If a person doesn’t set up power of attorney, the court gives a family member the power to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.
Vermont laws state that a power of attorney doesn’t grant the authority to decisions regarding health care. An unmarried person may also state their preference for a guardian. The document showing their preference will be executed similarly to a will.
– Advance Directives for Health Care & Disposition of Remains
Vermont law allows any individual, including an unmarried party, may appoint an agent to decide about matters on their behalf upon incapacity, incompetence, or death. Such a person can give their agent an advance directive that can:
State the health care type wanted or not wanted.
- State the treatments wanted or not wanted.
- Identify individuals the agent may not share information with.
- Authorize the disclosure of health details or information to other individuals.
- Nominate the people to serve as the individual’s guardian should the need arise.
- Authorize the disposition of the individual’s remains and direct funeral arrangements.
Unmarried parties need to note that in the absence of an advance directive, health care providers and funeral directors turn to the next-of-kin or spouse for a decision. A person can revoke the advance directive by a clear revocation expression or creating a new advance directive.
A person who is neither married nor in a civil union or lacks a will may have their property passed on to their children or family when they die. A will might be necessary if they wish to pass property to another person, such as a partner. Even if an unmarried person has few properties, they can state the person appointed to administer their estate in a will.
– How Do You Prove Common-law Marriage?
While common law in Vermont isn’t a valid legal concept, any couple that claims to be in a common law marriage should be ready to prove it. One way to prove a common law marriage is by showing that there is an intent to create the marriage. That might be easy to prove if the parties have a written contract or have signed an agreement.
Also, both parties must hold themselves out as a married couple. This could be achieved by living together as husband and wife, using the same last name, or presenting yourselves to family, friends, and the community as a married couple. Parties should also refer to each other as “husband” and “wife,” open joint bank accounts, file joint tax returns, share incomes and expenses, and wear wedding rings.
– What States Have Common-law Marriages?
Only a few states allow common-law marriages. They include:
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only).
– How Is Common Law Marriage Union Characterized?
In states that allow common law marriage, the union is characterized by:
- Two people who are in a marriage-like relationship.
- Parties with an intent to get married by living together and presenting themselves outwardly as a married couple.
- A relationship that meets the basic requirements for a legal marriage under state law.
A couple that meets the requirements for common law marriage attains the legal status of any other formal marriage. This means that the common law marriage confers all the rights and benefits of marriage, which include:
- Estate planning benefits and inheritance rights.
- Tax treatment.
- Employment benefits.
- Social Security benefits.
- Rights to request property division and alimony upon the termination of the marriage.
Common-law spouses also have the same legal obligations as formally married couples. They have to protect marital property and support each other. However, your relationship must meet the common law marriage criteria if you’re to take advantage of rights and obligations.
In addition to living in a state that allows common law marriage, parties must meet the basic marriage requirements under state laws. Generally, these include:
- Being of the legal age of marriage (18 years old).
- Having the mental capacity to contract into marriage.
- Not being in an incestuous relationship with a spouse.
- Not being in another marriage.
Common law marriage, often called informal marriage, allows partners to stay unmarried but enjoy the rights and obligations of a formal couple. While the laws concerning this type of marriage differ between states, it is a legal concept that is fast losing popularity. In this article, we have discussed common law marriage in Vermont and explored some of its alternatives. Here are some points to provide a brief of the discussion:
- Couples can’t establish common law marriage in Vermont, but the state recognizes valid common law marriages formed in other states.
- Unmarried couples in Vermont can protect their marital rights and obligations through domestic partnerships, relationship agreements, powers of attorney, advance directives, and wills.
- Such common law marriage alternatives extend rights and benefits such as property division, spousal support, health care, and employment benefits to unmarried parties.
Choosing to stay unmarried but live with your partner doesn’t mean missing out on spousal benefits and obligations. By speaking to an attorney, you can better understand how to protect such rights and make your relationship in Vermont official.
However, the easiest way to protect the rights and obligations of marriage remains to formalize your relationship through a ceremony or obtaining a marriage license.
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