Marriage is defined as the legal union of two people, usually requiring a ceremony and a marriage license in most states. Married couples enjoy certain legal benefits such as tax breaks, inheritance and survivor rights, spousal Social Security benefits, and spousal privilege rights.
In some states, if two people have been living together for a significant period of time and behave as though they are married, they may enter into what’s called a common-law marriage. If you and your partner follow certain conditions, you may count as a common-law husband or a common-law wife and qualify for the same benefits that apply to traditionally married couples. Recognition varies from state to state. As of this writing, Utah does not recognize common-law marriages, whether gay marriage, lesbian marriage, or straight marriage, as valid.
If you reside together with your partner in a serious relationship for a long time, you may be thinking if you’re already considered as being in a common-law marriage. You may have run into the term “cohabitation,” which is loosely defined as people in an intimate relationship, who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union. As of this writing, the state of Utah does not recognize common-law marriages. However, there are alternatives for couples who want legal recognition of their relationship.
In this article, we’ll give a brief overview of the differences between traditional and common law marriage, as well as Utah’s alternatives for couples. If you have any questions regarding what it means to be a common-law spouse, marriage laws, or other issues, our Orem family law attorneys can help! Call our law office now.
What’s the Deal with Traditional Marriage?
For a couple who wants to get married traditionally, they have to apply for a license and finish a marriage ceremony that’s officiated by a qualified individual, such as a preacher or a judge. When the ceremony ends, the newlyweds receive a marriage certificate for their records.
After you’ve completed all these steps, you are now considered lawfully married and you’re eligible to receive state and federal benefits, such as:
- Inheritance Rights
- Marital Tax deductions
- Immigration Benefits for a Foreign-Born Spouse (which can lead to naturalization)
- Social Security spousal benefits
Marrying traditionally has its benefits. It also brings certain rights and responsibilities. If you have any more questions about your legal rights or about what constitutes a valid marriage, talk to our Orem family law attorney now.
Can I Opt for Domestic Partnership?
Utah does not treat traditional marriage and domestic partnership the same way. There are no specific benefits for domestic partners in Utah state law.
If you and your partner would like to be on the Mutual Commitment Registry, you must complete the declaration form, have it notarized, and pay the necessary fees. Once you’ve completed these steps, you will receive a certificate of registration.
To be considered as domestic partners, both of you must:
- Submit the declaration form
- Be of legal age
- Provide proof of the commitment (can be a joint bank account, retirement account, credit card account, mortgage, loan, life insurance, or lease).
- Reside together
If you’re unsure whether if you should be a domestic partner or a traditional spouse, you can consult our Orem family law attorneys!
Alternatives to Marriage for Couples
Utah state law currently does not recognize common law marriage. However, even if you can’t count the person you cohabitate with as a common-law partner, you have the option to ask the court for recognition of your relationship as a marriage.
To do this, you must file a petition to recognize a relationship as a marriage to the local court. You must file the relationship while it’s still running its course or within a year after the relationship ends. If the court approves your petition, the validity of your marriage will be backdated to when your relationship began.
This process bestows the same effect as getting married. Talk to our Orem family law attorneys about the specifics. It usually is much faster and much cheaper to marry your partner than to go through the process. There are some reasons to want the marriage to be recognized earlier, such as spousal support, wills, and inheritance, or divorce. An experienced attorney can lay out your options for you and their implications, so you can decide what is the best course of action for you to take.
How Do I Establish My Marriage?
Either you or your partner can begin the process. Simply fill in the required paperwork, along with witnesses and evidence to prove your relationship and support your request. With these, you or your partner can ask the judge to recognize your past relationship as a marriage. The evidence must show that:
- Both parties can legally marry;
- Both of you can provide consent and are of legal age;
- They are or were cohabiting (i.e. lived together);
- Both parties consider each other a spouse in treatment; and
- They present themselves as a married couple that others did believe that they were married.
If you were able to prove this to the court with enough evidence, then the judge can declare you and your partner as being married.
You can also file jointly with your partner. To do so, just file your petition in the local county court. If you file to have the relationship recognize after it has ended, you can also file this along with the divorce. Take note that this only works if your relationship started after 1987. Utah only recognizes nontraditional setups for relationships due to the passing of the law on that year.
If you have any questions about establishing your past relationship as a marriage and finally become a spouse, get in touch with our family law firm.
What Is Consent?
For the union to be recognized as a marital relationship, both partners have to agree that their relationship was indeed a marriage. The person who files for this will have the responsibility of showing evidence of consent to court. Some evidence that can be considered are as follows:
- joint tax returns
- evidence of purchase and ownership of joint property
- proof of joint bank and credit accounts
- Witness testimony of people who can confirm that the marriage agreement existed
- a written agreement between the parties
Proving consent is essential for legal recognition of the relationship as a marriage and become a legal spouse. Our experienced lawyers can help you with this. Call our Orem family law firm now!
What are the Benefits of Having the Relationship Recognized?
A legally married husband and wife or same sew couple enjoys the privileges mentioned previously. Aside from the benefits of marriage, you also get access to the benefits when you get a divorce of a legally recognized marriage, which includes:
- A fair portion of your former partner’s retirement benefits and pension
- fair property settlements (a division of property)
- attorney fee contributions from the other spouse,
Legal recognition of being married is also helped if one of you passes away. The surviving spouse has automatic inheritance rights, which helps in the probate process or if the deceased does not leave a last will and testament. A nonlegal partner, even if they were a cohabiting couple, does not have a right to the deceased’s assets and will inherit nothing if there is no will.
Whether it’s same-sex marriage or heterosexual marriage, having your relationship recognized as marriage provides many legal benefits for you and your partner. For more information on asking a court to recognize a marital relationship in Utah, speak with an experienced Orem family law attorney.
Family is an incredibly personal and significant part of our lives, and facing legal issues that will affect you and your family brings stress and worry that makes the legal process much more difficult. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced family law attorney to consult with so that you can stay informed and know how to address family law matters that pertain to you, whether it’s child support, prenuptial agreement, or civil marriage.