Many people have heard of the term “common law marriage” and may use it to describe couples who have lived together for many years. Couples may consider themselves to be basically married or in a common law marriage if they have been together for a long time but simply never tied the knot. However, Florida law does not afford the same marital rights to couples unless they have legally married, no matter how long they have been together. This can cause serious complications should the couple decide to get “divorced.”
States laws can vary and some states recognize common law marriages, meaning a couple will have marital rights if they consider themselves to be husband and wife for a certain period of time. Florida law, however, specifically states that any common law marriages that started after January 1, 1968 are void and invalid. In some cases, Florida courts may recognize common law marriages that started in another state if that allows common law marriage, though no couple can enter into one of these marriages within the state and have it be recognized as a legal union.
Property Rights for Unmarried Couples
No matter how long you are together, if you did not get a marriage license and have a legal ceremony, you are not afforded the same rights to equitable division of property under the law as married couples. This can cause disputes for couples who have been together a long time and have comingled their property or have purchased real estate together. Similarly, debts will not be equitably divided either and each partner will generally be held liable for debts in their name.
If you have been partners with someone for a long time and have no plans to get married, you can consider entering into a written contract that can set out how your property and debts should be divided in the event of a break up. You should also plan to include your partner in your will if you want them to inherit your property, as they will not automatically inherit anything under the law without a specific provision in a will.
Parental Rights Without Marriage
With or without marriage, biological parents can still have custody and support rights after a breakup. A mother automatically has parental rights and responsibilities, however, it is important for a father to establish legal paternity so that he can also have full parental rights. An experienced family law attorney can advise on the different ways to legally establish paternity in Florida.
Find Out How an Experienced Boca Raton Family Lawyer Can Help
Legal issues relating to family can arise whether or not a couple is married or unmarried. If you have any concerns or are facing a family law matter, you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney who understands Florida laws. The law office of Alan R. Burton offers free consultations with no obligation, so please call today at 954-220-1660 for more information.