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How to Protect Your Assets in a Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage is a type of marriage that is recognized by some states in the United States, even though the couple has not obtained a marriage license or had a formal wedding ceremony. In a common law marriage, the couple is considered legally married if they meet certain requirements, such as living together for a specific period of time and presenting themselves as a married couple to the community.

Understanding Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage is not recognized in all states, and the requirements for establishing a common law marriage vary from state to state. Currently, only a handful of states recognize common law marriage, including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. In these states, couples who meet the requirements for a common law marriage are entitled to the same legal rights and protections as couples who are formally married.

It is important to note that simply living together for a certain period of time does not automatically create a common law marriage. The couple must also present themselves as married to the community, which may include using the same last name, referring to each other as husband and wife, and filing joint tax returns.

Protecting Your Assets in a Common Law Marriage

While common law marriage provides legal recognition and protections for couples, it also raises some unique challenges when it comes to protecting assets. Unlike couples who are formally married, common law couples do not have the same legal framework in place to divide assets in the event of a separation or divorce. Therefore, it is important for couples in a common law marriage to take proactive steps to protect their assets.

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1. Create a Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner in a common law marriage. This agreement can cover a wide range of issues, including property ownership, financial responsibilities, and the division of assets in the event of a separation or death.

By creating a cohabitation agreement, couples can establish clear guidelines for how their assets will be divided and protected. This can help prevent disputes and ensure that both partners are treated fairly in the event of a separation or divorce.

2. Keep Separate Bank Accounts

One way to protect your assets in a common law marriage is to keep separate bank accounts. By maintaining separate accounts, each partner can maintain control over their own finances and assets. This can be particularly important if one partner has significant assets or debts that they want to protect.

While it is common for couples in a common law marriage to have joint bank accounts for shared expenses, it is still important to maintain separate accounts for individual assets. This can help prevent commingling of assets and make it easier to divide assets in the event of a separation or divorce.

3. Consider a Prenuptial Agreement

Although prenuptial agreements are typically associated with formal marriages, they can also be used by couples in a common law marriage to protect their assets. A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that outlines how assets will be divided in the event of a separation or divorce.

By creating a prenuptial agreement, couples can establish clear guidelines for how their assets will be divided and protected. This can help prevent disputes and ensure that both partners are treated fairly in the event of a separation or divorce.

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4. Keep Detailed Records

Keeping detailed records of your assets and financial transactions can be crucial in protecting your assets in a common law marriage. This includes keeping copies of bank statements, tax returns, property deeds, and other important documents.

Having detailed records can help establish ownership of assets and provide evidence of financial contributions. This can be particularly important if there is a dispute over the division of assets in the event of a separation or divorce.

5. Consult with an Attorney

When it comes to protecting your assets in a common law marriage, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law. An attorney can provide guidance and advice on the best strategies for protecting your assets and ensuring that your rights are protected.

An attorney can also help you navigate the legal requirements for establishing a common law marriage and ensure that you are in compliance with the laws of your state.

Conclusion

Protecting your assets in a common law marriage requires proactive planning and careful consideration of your legal rights and responsibilities. By creating a cohabitation agreement, keeping separate bank accounts, considering a prenuptial agreement, keeping detailed records, and consulting with an attorney, you can take steps to protect your assets and ensure that your rights are protected.

While common law marriage provides legal recognition and protections for couples, it is important to remember that the laws surrounding common law marriage vary from state to state. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state to ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to protect your assets.

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By taking these steps, you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets are protected and that you have taken the necessary precautions to safeguard your financial future.

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