If you’re a resident of New York, you might have heard about common-law marriage or wondered if it is recognized in the state. Although common-law marriages might be acknowledged in some states, New York has its own stance on this concept.
Understanding Common-Law Marriage
A common-law marriage is a legally recognized union of two people living together as a couple who have not gone through a formal wedding ceremony or obtained a marriage license. The concept of common-law marriage dates back to medieval England and was originally intended to protect the rights of couples who could not or did not want to go through a religious wedding ceremony.
In the United States, each state has its own laws and regulations concerning common-law marriages. Some states recognize common-law marriages, while others do not. The requirements for establishing a common-law marriage vary from state to state, but generally, the couple must cohabitate, present themselves as married, and intend to be married.
New York’s Position on Common-Law Marriage
New York State does not recognize common-law marriage for relationships established within its borders. This means that regardless of how long a couple lives together or whether they consider themselves married, they will not be considered legally married in New York without a marriage license and a formal ceremony.
However, there is an exception — New York will acknowledge a common-law marriage if it was validly established in another state that recognizes such marriages. This is due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, which requires each state to recognize and give effect to the laws and judicial decisions of other states.
Protecting Your Rights as a Common-Law Couple
If you are part of a common-law relationship in New York, you can still take steps to safeguard your rights and interests. Some of these measures include:
- -Drafting a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner in the relationship. It can cover topics such as property division, financial support, and child custody.
- -Creating a will or estate plan. A well-drafted will or estate plan can ensure that your common-law spouse inherits your property and assets upon your death and is appointed as the executor of your estate.
- -Assigning power of attorney. By designating your common-law spouse as your agent through a power of attorney, you can grant them the authority to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- -Designating beneficiaries. Ensure that your common-law spouse is named as the beneficiary on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial instruments to guarantee they receive these benefits in the event of your death.
- -Obtaining joint ownership. Consider obtaining joint ownership of property, bank accounts, and other significant assets to establish a clear legal claim for both partners in the relationship.
- -Parenting agreements. If you have children together, it’s essential to draft a parenting agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each parent regarding child custody, visitation, and support. This can provide a legal framework for decision-making and conflict resolution in the future.
Q: Can Same-Sex Couples Enter Into a Common-Law Marriage in States That Recognize Such Unions?
A: Yes, same-sex couples can enter into a common-law marriage in states that recognize these unions. Following the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, the rights and protections afforded to heterosexual couples in recognized common-law marriages also apply to same-sex couples. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the rules and requirements for common-law marriage vary from state to state, so it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific laws of the state in which you reside.
Q: If We Move to New York From a State That Recognizes Our Common-Law Marriage, Do We Need to Take Any Additional Steps to Ensure Our Marriage Is Recognized in New York?
A: If your common-law marriage was validly established in a state that recognizes such marriages, New York will recognize it as well. You do not need to take any additional steps to ensure your marriage is acknowledged in New York. However, it is a good idea to have documentation proving the validity of your common-law marriage, such as an affidavit signed by both partners or sworn statements from witnesses. This documentation can be helpful in situations where you need to prove your marital status for legal or administrative purposes.
Q: Can a Common-Law Spouse Inherit Their Partner’s Property in New York if They Pass Away Without a Will?
A: In New York, a common-law spouse will not automatically inherit their partner’s property if they pass away without a will. Because the state does not recognize common-law marriages established within its borders, the surviving partner will not be considered a legal spouse and will not have inheritance rights under the state’s intestacy laws. To ensure that a common-law spouse inherits property and assets, it’s vital to create a comprehensive estate plan, including a will, which explicitly designates the common-law spouse as a beneficiary.
Q: Does NY Recognize Domestic Partners?
A: Yes, New York recognizes domestic partnerships. Domestic partnerships are legal relationships between two individuals who live together and share a close and committed relationship but are not married. New York City, in particular, has a domestic partnership registry that allows couples, including same-sex couples, to register their relationship and obtain certain rights and benefits. While domestic partnerships do not offer the same level of legal rights and protections as marriage, they do provide some benefits, such as the ability to make medical decisions for each other, hospital visitation rights, and access to health insurance benefits for partners who work for the City of New York.
Contact the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, Today
If you have questions about common-law marriage in New York or are considering entering into a domestic partnership, it’s important to get legal advice from an experienced family law attorney. At the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, we can help you understand your rights and obligations under the law so that you can make informed decisions about your relationship. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.