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Common Law Marriage in Michigan: Yes or No?

If you're wondering whether you have a common law marriage in Michigan, the answer might be "no." Learn more in this comprehensive guide.

evident Editorial Team
March 7, 2024
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The term "common law marriage in Michigan" frequently arises in relationships and legal discussions, leading to numerous questions and misconceptions.

Michigan doesn't recognize common law marriage, though it used to.

In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about Michigan's stance on common law marriage.

Key Takeaways

What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage stands apart from traditional marriage in its formation.

Unlike a ceremonial marriage that requires a marriage license, a valid common law marriage is established when a couple resides together and presents themselves with a present intent as a married duo to their community, all without the official wedding certificate that comes with a legal marriage.

Key elements typically characterizing a valid marriage based on common law include:

  • Cohabitation Agreement: The couple has resided together, often for an extended period like seven years.
  • Representation: Partners consistently introduce themselves as common law married to friends, family, and the public.
  • Intent: A mutual understanding and desire to be perceived as married.

Does Michigan Recognize Common Law Marriage?

No, Michigan law does not recognize common law marriages established within the state. Historically, Michigan did recognize common law marriages, but this practice was abolished in 1957. Since then, couples in Michigan cannot establish a new common law marriage.

However, for federal income tax purposes and other legal matters, Michigan recognizes common law marriages from other jurisdictions if they were established according to the laws of those few states. This is true in other states like Illinois, PennsylvaniaNorth Carolina, and Florida.

Texas, on the other hand, does recognize common law marriage.

Rights of Unmarried Couples in Michigan

Relationship and personal property rights are a significant concern for those not legally married. Unlike a married couple, unmarried couples don't automatically share property ownership in Michigan. The name on a property title typically determines ownership, but drafting a cohabitation agreement can provide clarity.

Medical decisions, child support, and parenting time can also pose challenges for unmarried couples compared to married couples. While biological parents have inherent rights, establishing legal paternity is crucial for fathers. A durable power and medical power of attorney can be granted for making critical medical decisions for partners.

Common Myths about Common Law Marriage in Michigan

Understanding common law marriage in Michigan requires sifting through numerous misconceptions.

Below, we debunk some prevalent myths surrounding the topic:

The "Seven Years Rule"

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  • Myth: Living together for seven continuous years results in an automatic recognition of a common law marriage.
  • Reality: Michigan does not recognize common law marriage, so the duration of cohabitation doesn't grant couples a common law marriage status.

Shared Finances Equals Marriage

  • Myth: If a couple shares joint bank accounts, properties, or other financial assets, they are considered officially wed.
  • Reality: While joint financial decisions are significant for a relationship, they do not directly determine a couple's legal relationship status under Michigan law.

Common Law Marriage Certificate

  • Myth: Couples in a common law marriage can obtain a "common law marriage certificate."
  • Reality: Michigan did not issue specific certificates for common law marriages. Such relationships were recognized based on mutual intent and consistent representation, not a document.

By staying informed about these facts and distinguishing them from myths, couples can navigate their legal standing in Michigan. If you need further assistance, contact an attorney versed in family law.

Same-Sex Marriages and Common Law in Michigan

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Michigan's approach to same-sex marriage and common law marriages has changed over the years. Following the Supreme Court's decision, same-sex couples have the same fundamental rights as opposite-sex couples. This means that marriage in Michigan grants couples equal rights.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages:  Michigan acknowledges same-sex marriages and gives these couples the same legal rights and status as opposite-sex couples.
  • Common Law Marriages for Same-Sex Couples:  Michigan does not recognize new common law marriages, regardless of whether the couple is same-sex or opposite-sex.

FAQs About Common Law Marriage in Michigan

How long do you have to live together for common law marriage in MI?

In Michigan, there isn't a specified duration of cohabitation that automatically results in a common law marriage. Instead, common law marriage in MI is recognized based on the couple's mutual intent to be married and their consistent representation of their relationship as a marriage to the public.

What is considered common law marriage in MI?

Common law marriage in Michigan is traditionally based on the mutual intent of the couple to be considered married without a formal marriage license or ceremony. Both partners needed to have a present intent to be viewed as married and consistently present themselves as such to their community.

Is MI a common law property state?

No, Michigan is not a common law property state; it's an equitable distribution state. In the case of divorce, a Michigan court will aim to divide assets fairly, which doesn't necessarily mean equally.

What is the benefit of common law marriage?

Common law marriage can offer a few benefits, including legal recognition, flexibility, economic advantages, and healthcare and decision rights.

Conclusion: Understanding Your Legal Standing in Michigan

Michigan's laws surrounding common law marriage are nuanced and have evolved. While Michigan does not recognize new common law marriages established within the state, it will recognize those from other jurisdictions.

Whether you're in a committed relationship, considering cohabitation, or merely expanding your knowledge, it's essential to be informed about your rights and the state's regulations.

As the intricacies of family law can vary and change, seeking guidance from a qualified Michigan family law attorney can offer clarity and protection tailored to your specific situation.