Marriage isn’t for everyone. It may appeal to one couple, while another couple is content living together without a formal ceremony or marriage license. The latter is what is called a “common law marriage.”
What is Common Law Marriage?
Marriage is the legal union of two individuals and is available in all 50 states, affording couples legal protections they otherwise wouldn’t have and intertwining their rights and responsibilities. Common law marriage is a way of affording legal protections to unmarried individuals who share responsibilities as a married couple might.
Common law marriages typically require that the couple:
- Lives together for a specific amount of time.
- Has the legal right to marry.
- Both intend to marry.
- Acknowledge each other as husband and wife.
The specifics of common law marriage will vary from state to state.
Does Illinois Have Common Law Marriage?
Illinois does not have common law marriages, but common law marriages from other states are afforded the legal protections of marriage in Illinois. Currently, common law marriage is recognized by Washington D.C. and the following states:
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Although Illinois does recognize common law marriages from these states, the couple is required to show the following:
- The state from which they moved recognizes common law marriage.
- They met that state’s common law marriage legal requirements.
- They didn’t divorce in another state.
What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have in Illinois?
Couples who entered into a common law marriage in another state, and move to Illinois, can receive the same protections as married couples. This means disputes over child custody and property division are handled in almost the same way they would for a legally married couple. It’s different for unmarried couples, however.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that unmarried couples have no legal rights to one another’s property. However, if an unmarried couple has children, the custodial parent has a right to receive child support from the non-custodial parent.
For added protection, some couples choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement, which is similar to a prenuptial agreement in principle. Cohabitation agreements are created between a couple that lives together. These agreements outline how their finances and assets will be distributed if they eventually go their separate ways. Cohabitation agreements can’t set terms for child support or parenting time but can help both parties feel more secure about living together.
Receive Knowledgeable Legal Representation from Conniff Law Offices
Whether you have questions about how to establish your common law marriage from another state in Illinois or the difference between a civil union and a common law marriage, Conniff Law Offices can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our firm’s locations in Chicago or Oak Park.