Moving in with your romantic partner is a big step– it means consolidating your expenses to some degree, which means that you need to agree on important financial matters to make sure things are fair to both of you.
However, the law regards cohabiting couples differently than married couples. The way the law works for cohabiting couples varies on a state-by-state basis.
What is a common-law relationship?
When people talk about common-law relationships, they are most likely referring to common-law marriage.
A common-law marriage is one in which a couple is legally considered married, even though they have not purchased a marriage certificate. This term mostly refers to the rights held by partners in a common-law relationship.
For example, the common-law marriage is relevant if one partner dies, and there is any ambiguity about the division of their assets and their will.
However, the common-law marriage is not recognized by most states. In fact, out of all fifty states, the only states that honor common-law marriage are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia.
It’s important to note that South Carolina does not honor any common-law marriages after a ruling in 2019– however, all common-law marriages entered into before 2019 will still be legally recognized.
For other states, there are some popular beliefs regarding common-law marriage. One such belief is that a couple becomes “common-law married” after a certain number of years of cohabitation. This is actually a myth, even in the states that do honor common-law marriage.
In fact, there is no minimum amount of time that a couple needs to cohabitate before they can be considered common-law married. They simply must agree as a couple that they are married.
In the states that do recognize common-law marriage (note: Arkansas is not one of these states!) common-law partners hold the same rights that traditionally married couples do when it comes to important decisions, like child custody, division of assets, and health care decisions.
Can you get common-law married in Arkansas?
Arkansas is not one of the states that honors common-law marriage.
That means that no matter how long a couple has been cohabiting, they are not viewed as a married couple in the eyes of the state. Even if they consider one another husband and wife, their legal rights are not the same as a couple that has filed a marriage license and/or held a ceremony.
What rights do cohabiting partners have in Arkansas?
One of the most important things to understand when it comes to living as a cohabiting couple in Arkansas is that living together does not guarantee you the same rights that marriage does.
For example, a cohabiting couple has no financial obligation to one another.
In the event of a separation, one partner has no legal obligation to support the other and is not responsible for any of their assets or debts.
However, if a couple wishes to make some legal agreements as a cohabiting couple, it’s possible to file a document called a cohabitation agreement. This agreement outlines the rights and duties of both partners in regards to assets and property.
Should I file a cohabitation agreement in Arkansas?
Attorneys will always recommend that you protect yourself legally. Hardship does arise, and relationships do end– and if that happens, you don’t want to be left without any property or earnings.
If you’d like to work with an experienced civil attorney to create a cohabitation agreement that ensures a favorable outcome for both you and your partner in the event of a separation, look no further than Digby Law Firm. We’re here to ensure that your rights are protected no matter what.
To get started, give us a call today.