Common-Law Marriage: Lessons From Iggy Azalea’s Divorce Fight

Many Iggy Azalea fans were recently shocked to learn the female rapper had been served with divorce papers. While that news alone might not have been shocking in and of itself, the fact that she wasn’t married when she got the news of the divorce petition is the shocking thing. Some people might be wondering exactly how that is possible. It is possible because Azalea lived in Texas, a state that recognizes informal or common-law marriages. 

Not all states recognize common-law marriage

Common-law marriages are recognized in some states, but not others. According to FindLaw, there are nine states that formally recognize common-law marriage. These are Utah, Texas, Rhode Island, Kansas, Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, and South Carolina. Washington, District of Columbia also formally recognizes common-law marriage.

There are some states that recognize common-law marriage in an informal capacity. New Hampshire recognizes common-law marriage only for the purpose of an inheritance. Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania recognize common-law marriage in an informal capacity only if the common-law marriage was established prior to specific dates. Those dates are state-specific. 

Not all common-law marriages recognized

For the purpose of common-law marriage in most jurisdictions, the couple has to consist of a man and a woman. There are only two states, Iowa and Rhode Island, that recognize common-law marriages between same-sex couples. Washington, D.C. also recognizes same-sex common-law marriages.

Conditions must be met

In order for a common-law marriage to be legal, the couple must live as a married couple in a jurisdiction that recognizes common-law marriage. In some jurisdictions, the couple has to file formal paper work for the common-law marriage to be recognized.

They must agree to be a married couple. This can mean simply saying they want to be married to each other.

The couple must meet the specific requirements for traditional marriages. These requirements include being of a legal age of consent, being unmarried, and being of a mental capacity required to get married.

The couple must also present themselves to others as a married couple. This can mean anything from telling someone they are married to acting as a married couple for the purpose of securing credit. 

Legal and binding agreement

A common-law marriage is a legal and binding agreement in the eyes of the law. This means that a couple wishing to end a common-law marriage must go through the same process as a couple wishing to dissolve a traditional marriage. Child custody and support matters have to be dealt with if the couple has children. Property division, including division of assets and division of debts, has to be completed. In some cases, the end of a common-law marriage might mean financial difficulties that could lead to bankruptcy if the parties aren’t careful about the property division.

Because the family law statutes and precedents change often, anyone who is considering entering into a common-law marriage or thinking of dissolving a common-law marriage should make sure they understand how the decision will affect them. This means seeking answers from someone familiar with the laws as they stand, like divorce lawyers such as those from Backus Law Group.

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