Common law marriage is one of those legal topics that is often discussed but seldom understood. In 2013, Kansas is one of very few states that still recognizes common law marriage. In Kansas, a couple is considered to have a common law marriage if:
1) The parties are over the age of 18 years;
2) The parties consider themselves to be married;
3) The parties holds themselves out to the public as being married; and
4) The parties are legally eligible to marry.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no set time period that a couple must meet these requirements before the parties are considered to be common law married.
Once a couple has established a common law marriage, the couple is bound by the same legal obligations as one that has obtained a marriage license. If the couple decides to divorce, the parties are required to go through a legal divorce proceeding–just as parties to a licensed marriage. The divorce proceedings will deal with division of property, debts and assets, and, if applicable, child custody and child support.
It is important for couples to understand their rights and obligations when deciding whether to enter or terminate a common law marriage. Similarly, individuals who cohabitate but remain unmarried need to understand their individual rights and obligations with regard to property, children of the relationship, or contracts signed by either party. For more information on this topic, contact Julia Craft, Kristine Lawless, or Rebecca Sisk at our Wichita (316-262-9393), Topeka (785-234-3272), or Lawrence (785-856-0143) offices.