The tradition of formal weddings with elaborate ceremonies and official documentation has been customary for couples embarking on the journey of marriage. However, an alternate type of marital arrangement exists, common law marriage. Common law marriage challenges the norms and expectations of marriage, and with that comes the question of its validity and what to do when the relationship ends.
From understanding its recognition across different states to delving into the potential ramifications when seeking a divorce, there’s much to explore in common law marriage. This article will shed some light on common law marriage, divorce, and the specifics of Tennessee divorce law.
What is Common Law Marriage?
Conventional marriages necessitate a marriage license, an officiant, and a solemnization ceremony. Common law marriages come into existence based on the actions and intentions of the couple involved.
A common law marriage is also called a de facto or informal marriage. It is a legal relationship that forms between two individuals who live together, present themselves as a married couple, and meet specific criteria without obtaining a formal marriage license or ceremony.
Common Law Marriage States
At one point in time, the majority of the states in the United States allowed common law marriages. However, most states have abolished the practice.
There are some Native American tribes and a handful of states that still formally recognize common law marriages. These states include:
- South Carolina
It’s important to note that each state has its own set of requirements for establishing a common law marriage. These requirements often include living together for a certain period, presenting themselves as a married couple to the community, and demonstrating the intention to be married.
Common Law Marriage in Tennessee
Tennessee is not among the states that recognize common law marriage. In fact, it has never been a common law marriage state. However, this doesn’t mean the state completely disregards common law marriages that were validly formed in other states.
If a couple validly establishes a common law marriage in one of the states that recognize it and then moves to Tennessee, the state generally recognizes their marriage as valid. In such cases, these couples are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as formally married couples, including property rights, inheritance, and more.
For example, if a couple is common law married in Utah and moves to Tennessee, their marriage would still be valid. However, if the couple moves from Utah before being common law married, they couldn’t become common law married in Tennessee.
This is important because it means that simply moving to a state that doesn’t have common law marriage isn’t the same as getting a divorce. If you were common law married in another state, then moved to a state that doesn’t have common law marriage, you would still have to go through a divorce in Tennessee.
Divorce and a Common Law Marriage in Tennessee
There isn’t a special divorce for those wishing to end a common law marriage in Tennessee. However, because there isn’t an official certificate from a government authority, the couple must provide additional testimony and evidence as proof of the validity of the common law marriage.
The burden of proof to prove the existence of the common law marriage falls on the spouse who has filed the complaint for divorce. If the burden isn’t met with evidence, the case will be dismissed because there are no bonds of marriage requiring the court’s intervention to dissolve.
If the common law marriage is, in fact, valid, the requirements for divorce, such as residency requirements and the required waiting period, will apply. After these requirements are met, the courts will determine the division of property, alimony, child support, custody, and visitation.
Proving Common Law Marriage in Tennessee
When proving their case, the spouse filing the complaint for divorce may provide the following as evidence of a valid common law marriage.
- Holding themselves as married in public
- Using the same last name
- History of filing joint tax returns
- Referring to themselves as “spouses” or “husband and wife”
- Having children
- Listing the other person as their “spouse” on health insurance
- Filing bankruptcy jointly as married
- Continuously cohabitating
- Joint bank accounts or intermingled finances
- Owning a business together
- Providing each other with money without a promissory note or collateral
- Other evidence of marriage
Looking to End Your Common Law Marriage? Turn to Attorney Hunter Fowler, Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
Common law marriage remains an intriguing legal concept that challenges traditional notions of formal marriage. While only a handful of states formally recognize it, the landscape of relationships and partnerships continues to evolve.
Couples must know their state’s laws regarding common law marriage and its implications for their legal rights and responsibilities. Consulting legal professionals and experts in family law can provide the guidance needed to navigate these complex matters and ensure that individuals are well-prepared for their unique circumstances.
Tennessee divorce procedures can be complicated and confusing. And adding in the aspect of a common law marriage can make things more complex. Attorney Hunter Fowler will help guide you through the divorce process to make it as simple as possible. He has experience fighting for his clients’ rights to keep what they want and will do whatever it takes to ensure your needs are heard and met.
Contact us today for a consultation.