Kansas is one of just a handful of states that still recognize common law marriage. There are a lot of misconceptions about common law marriage. Here are a few of the biggest myths:
- My significant other and I have lived together for 7 years. That means we are common law married.
WRONG. There is actually no requirement of cohabitation or a length of time that is required to be common law married. So, just living together for 7 years—or 7 months or 17 years–does not mean you are common law married.
- My significant other and I have children together and have lived together for years. That makes us common law married.
WRONG. Just as living together doesn’t make you common law married, neither does having children together. (Unwed fathers: you may want to read our blog on paternity as well.)
- Since we are common law married, it is not necessary to get a real divorce.
WRONG. If you are common law married, you are married. The only way to dissolve a marriage is through a divorce.
So what is common law marriage in Kansas? A Kansas couple is in a common law marriage if:
- The parties to the relationship have a present agreement to be married;
- The parties to the relationship hold themselves out to be married; and
- The parties to the relationship are legally eligible to marry each other.
Even with these three requirements, it gets a little fuzzy sometimes. The court looks at factors to see if the three requirements are met. Here are some examples:
Present agreement to be married: There doesn’t need to be any formal ceremony or paperwork, but both people must have the understanding that they are part of a married couple.
Holding out: Do they introduce each other as husband and wife? Does the public and their family and friends consider them a married couple? Did they file joint income tax returns as married? Did they fill out other documentation as married or use the other’s last name?
Legally eligible to be married: Both parties must be old enough to get married under Kansas law and have the capacity to make the decision to marry. Neither can be currently married to another, and the marriage must not be incestuous.
Questions about this or any other family law issue? Call today to set up a consultation with one of our family law attorneys in Wichita, Kansas City, Lawrence & Topeka!