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Getting a Common-Law Marriage Recognized in Michigan

In many states across the Union, common-law marriage (defined in layman’s terms as “living together long enough that the law counts you as married even though you never got a marriage license”) is a legal status that you can find yourself in today. Common-law marriages can still be entered into in the states of:

  • Alabama (though only until January 1, 2017),
  • Colorado,
  • The District of Columbia,
  • Iowa,
  • Kansas,
  • Montana,
  • New Hampshire (but only posthumously as part of a probate case),
  • Oklahoma,
  • Rhode Island,
  • South Carolina,
  • Texas, and
  • Utah

The other states do not allow common-law marriages, though most at one point did, and all of them still recognize common-law marriages entered into in another state (or those that are old enough that they were legal when they were entered into). For example, if you live today in Washington (where common law marriages have never been legal), but you lived together and acted as husband and wife for an extended time in Pennsylvania prior to 2006, and had your union recognized there as a common-law marriage by the courts, Washington will still acknowledge that marriage.

Common-Law Marriages in Michigan
Michigan stopped recognizing common-law marriages in 1957, so it’s unlikely that any life-long Michigan residents would find themselves in such a situation. If you believe that you have a common-law marriage from another state or district, and you want the Michigan courts to recognize it, you still have a substantial amount to prove, including:

  • That you actually cohabitated with your common-law spouse in a jurisdiction other than Michigan,
  • That the jurisdiction in question had established requirements for common-law marriage,
  • That you met those requirements while cohabitating in that jurisdiction, and
  • That a court within that jurisdiction recognized the validity of your common-law marriage.

But even then, you’re still not done. Before the state of Michigan will validate a recognized common-law marriage (in other words, actually allow you the privileges of a married couple), each of you must also:

  • Obtain a power of attorney giving each the ability to speak for the other in legal matters,
  • Obtain a durable power of attorney giving each the ability to speak for the other in legal matters even if the other is incapacitated or deceased, and
  • Obtain a medical power of attorney giving each the speak for the other in medical decisions.

Once all of those are obtained, Michigan will validate the recognized common-law marriage and the two of you are considered legally married for all intents and purposes. Good luck!

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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