Every state has different laws, but for the most part, those laws remain similar. Rhode Island strays from the pack on the issue of common law marriages. In fact, Rhode Island common law marriages are very complicated and can be confusing. Including Rhode Island, only 11 states even recognize common law marriages. Some states only recognize it if the relationship started before a specific date. Find out how Rhode Island common law marriages differ from other states.
What Is It?
A common law marriage is an unmarried marriage that the court recognizes. But it doesn’t mean that you can live with someone for awhile and have one. Today, many couples live together and have families together without considering it a marriage. For that reason, it takes more than proof of cohabitation to prove common law marriage. Living together and sharing your finances isn’t enough. The Rhode Island Supreme Court created the standards for Rhode Island common law marriages based on case law. If you want a common law marriage, you need to prove that you lived up to their standards. To do so, you may need to appear in Rhode Island Family Court or file a Superior Court lawsuit.
What You Should Know About It
1. Seven Years of Cohabitation Between a Boyfriend and Girlfriend Does Not Qualify as a Common Law Marriage
This statement is true for a few reasons. First, Rhode Island common law marriages apply to both same and different sex couples. Cohabitation can be between two men, two women, or two people of differing sexes. However, none of those situations warrant common law marriage. This introduces the second fallacy of the statement. No length of cohabitation is enough time to meet the strict definition of common law marriage. At least, not without satisfying a few other requirements. If you meet a few other requirements, you and your partner could live together for a week and have a common law marriage.
2. Announcing Your Marriage Could Be Enough to Make You Married by Common Law
Consider this situation as an example. Beth and Tony are engaged and refer to one another as a fiancee. Then, they decide to throw a party with their friends and family members. They don’t advertise the party like a wedding, and they don’t have a marriage certificate from Rhode Island, Providence Plantations, or another state in the US. At the party, they tell their guests that they are married and the party is their wedding. Then, they move in together the following day. Beth immediately puts Tony on her health insurance plan through work. In a week, they could have a common law marriage.
This meets all the requirements of common law marriage in the state. It shows that a couple (same sex or otherwise) had the intention of starting a husband and wife relationship. Additionally, their announcement showed that the community believed they married.
3. Rhode Island Family Court Considers Multiple Factors
It’s not only one factor that affects your status of common law marriage. Instead of relying on one or two details, the court considers several. Although it is important to show that you as a couple are out to the community as a wife and husband, other factors matter. This includes evidence and allegations that prove whether or not your situation is a common law marriage.
It’s important to recognize that relying on these multiple factors also means that not fitting the criteria for one factor isn’t enough to eliminate your chance of having a common law marriage. You may not meet one requirement but can make up for it by meeting several others.
4. The Details Matter
There are a few key details that can help you prove that you have a common law marriage. First, you can take your partner’s last name. The court considers that as a sign that you intended to marry. If you take your boyfriend’s last name, you can greatly improve your odds of a common law marriage. Likewise, you can address your partner as your husband or your wife. When you use this term in public, it’s another sign of intended marriage.
Finally, you can use an engagement or wedding ring. If you exchanged rings and wear it on the proper finger, the court might look favorably upon your case
Rhode Island Common Law Marriages are Confusing
If all of this sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone. Rhode Island does not handle common law marriages in a simple matter. In fact, it’s quite complicated. If you want to find out if you’re eligible for a common law marriage, you need help from an expert. Speaking with a lawyer who has experience in the field is the best way to understand the laws. He can explain if your situation is a good fit, and what you can do to improve your chances. Before you try to get approval, seek the counsel of a lawyer. It can save you time and money, and make the process much easier.