Marriage is a dream for many people, but for others, it is something that is not necessary. While some people need a ceremony to show their love in front of friends and relatives, others prefer to simply live together and act as a married couple without undergoing the legal process. When a couple wishes to live together but not get married, it is sometimes known as a common-law marriage. While it does work for many couples, any couple that enters into this type of relationship must understand what their rights are, and how to protect them.
What is a Common Law Marriage?
Not every couple that lives together is considered to be in a common-law marriage. In most cases, people that want to be considered common law must:
Cohabitate for a certain period of time
Have a legal right to marry
Have the intention of marrying at some point in the future
Recognize their partner as their spouse
The above requirements are only necessary in states that recognize common law marriage, something that not all states do.
Does Illinois Recognize Common Law Marriage?
The majority of states in the country do not consider common-law marriages legal, and that holds true for Illinois, as well. When two unmarried people live together in Illinois and then break up, they do not have the same rights that they would in a divorce. The only caveat to this is when a couple was considered to be common law married in another state and then moved to Illinois. In this case, Illinois will recognize the couple as married.
How to Protect Your Rights
Even though Illinois does not recognize common-law marriages, there are still ways couples can protect themselves. A cohabitation agreement can act similarly to a premarital agreement, outlining how assets acquired together are to be divided if the couple breaks up, and incorporating other provisions, as well.
Like premarital agreements, cohabitation agreements cannot include provisions for child custody and child support. If an unmarried couple has children together and then breaks up, paternity must first be established before the court will make a decision on child custody, child support, and parenting time. The court will make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child, just as they would in a divorce. The factors considered include the ability of each parent to provide adequate care and support to the child, the financial situation of each parent, and more.
Contact a DuPage County Family Lawyer
More and more couples are choosing not to get officially married, and instead, they simply live together as spouses. In these cases, it is important to speak to a skilled Wheaton, IL family law attorney who can help you draft an agreement that will protect your rights. At Andrew Cores Family Law Group, our seasoned attorneys know what to include in these agreements to ensure they are enforceable in the event that you and your partner break up. Contact us today at 630-871-1002 to schedule a free consultation.