Divorcing From a Common Law Marriage in Kentucky

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Did you know that Kentucky does not recognize common law marriage?

A common law or “de facto” marriage is when a couple lives together for a certain length of time and are regarded as “married” to family and friends, but never have an official ceremony or obtain a marriage license.

Only 16 states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriage in the United States. Kentucky does not recognize common law but will recognize common law marriages if the state it was contracted in recognized common law marriage.

Because Kentucky does not recognize common law marriage, couples who have a common law marriage in Kentucky may not officially divorce through the Kentucky legal system or use Kentucky courts for other related issues.

When couples who have lived together and are commonly referred to as “married” decide to part ways in Kentucky, there are legal complications over who gets what possessions. If you do not have a marriage license, you will need to seek a lawyer to protect your rights and properties.

Unlike marriage, there are not implied matters about children and property in cohabiting relationships. For example:

  • One of the individuals does not automatically have the right to share business property, real estate property, or personal property owned by the other individual.
  • One individual does not automatically have the right to have the other’s property.
  • One individual does not automatically have the right to health insurance coverage on the other individual’s policy. If the couple has children together, the children can be covered by the health insurance.
  • One individual may not make health care decisions on behalf of the other individual if he or she is incapacitated without a valid Health Care Directive.

In addition, child support and custody rights do not apply to children of unmarried couples, even if they are married under common law. Property rights also do not exist specifically for cohabiting couples, even if the couple’s relationship closely resembles marriage in Kentucky.

It is best to seek a lawyer to pursue the following legal claims if an individual wishes to separate from a cohabiting relationship. An attorney can help with the following:

  • contract claims
  • partnership claims
  • Quantum Meruit claims
  • Constructive trusts or resulting trusts
  • Real estate concepts
  • Health care directives

Are you separating from a common law marriage or a long-term cohabiting relationship? For a free evaluation of your case and further information contact The Bryant Law Center at lawteam@bryantpsc.com.

Mark Bryant
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