Common-Law Marriages – Save Your Marriage While You Can


Married Couples are often stressed out. Many married couples have been deeply affected by an economic pandemic which has slashed the global economy, tossed millions of people out of work, left millions more struggling for the means to feed their families, forced millions of families into lock downs, and literally took the lives of hundreds of millions. So much stress, and so much loss, that it seems many couples are unable to leave their marriages despite sometimes violent threats and sometimes even legal action. But couples who remain married have an enormous resource which they can draw upon to help them get through their times of trouble without having to go down with the ship or ride it out alone. All married couples can find support from their community, religious groups, sexual health and ED professionals, and other sources to help them keep going.

A recent study showed that nearly half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. This comes as no surprise when you take a look at the increasing divorce rates across the globe. There is certainly nothing wrong with divorces as every couple makes their own decisions about what is best for them individually. But this current pandemic is unprecedented in its severity and rate of growth, and has had such an effect on married couples that some are asking the question: is saving the marriage a losing proposition? Is it better to just give up now, or can a marriage survive the recession?

The answer, of course, depends on the individual relationship between married couples. In some cases, it would appear that divorce might be the best solution, particularly when the couple has severe financial difficulties and/or serious behavioral problems which make divorce a logical solution. In other cases, though, the situation has become so bad that staying married may seem the only viable solution. In these cases, the newlyweds need to explore the possibility of saving the marriage rather than simply giving up.

There are two basic kinds of divorce: customary and common-law. In customary divorce, both spouses voluntarily leave their marriage and separate from each other. For most common-law marriages, however, there is little voluntary separation and the marriage is considered “eternally fixed.” Under these circumstances, the husband and wife remain legally married despite the existence of a marriage license, even in the eyes of the law. This means that in most cases, common-law divorce requires a lawyer.

The second possible way to save a marriage in this current recession is to retain the legal marriage. In this scenario, couples maintain their legal marriage because they value the relationship more than the legal marriage. When economic conditions change and one spouse begins to suffer financially, the other spouse may decide to file for divorce. In these cases, couples attempt to save the marriage by either maintaining the legal marriage or splitting assets evenly and deciding on the distribution of marital property. Some jurisdictions also recognize a “fault” settlement where the husband and wife divide their assets before a court and apply the equity accumulated to the tax liability instead of the full amount owed to each spouse. If no settlement is reached, or the couple decides to have the marriage dissolved, they will have to file a divorce petition with the clerk of court in their county.

When planning your moves during a rough economy, you should consider the emotional consequences that can result from a divorce. The last thing many married couples want to contemplate is a battle over property and debt that involves a sizable amount of money. Be sure to consult a professional who is experienced in dealing with common-law marriages to get informed about your options. Do not assume that you have little risk if you decide to get married, but it is important to be realistic and prepare for a possible battle over property and debt. While you can work out an amicable solution that satisfies your needs, you may also face an uphill battle if you get married through a customary process.

Eric Lilly
the authorEric Lilly