When a common-law marriage ends, the division of property, child visitation rights and the financial rights of either party may vary significantly from those involved in a legal marriage. NPR notes that only a handful of states recognize common-law marriage, which could seriously affect your post-separation status.
There are some myths about this type of marriage that people often accept as a matter of course; however, if you find yourself splitting with your partner after a number of years, you may want to review which statutes might affect your future.
The seven-year myth
You may accept the widely-believed assumption that once you date and/or live with someone for seven years, you become common-law married in the eyes of your state. However, even states that recognize this relationship may not afford either party many rights because neither was ever legally married. While you may have the right to child support under common-law marriage if your spouse acknowledges paternity, traditional divorce laws are not likely to apply.
About common-law status
Few time limits apply when it comes to claiming a common-law marriage status. Some courts examine other factors, such as whether you filed taxes jointly with your partner, how you sign documents, and how you present yourself socially as a couple. Even if you come to think of yourself as officially married after a certain time period passes, a common-law status may hobble your rights once a split occurs.
Putting agreements down on paper may help you and your ex-partner sever ties if it is ever necessary for the future. Having such papers notarized is likely wise, especially if you cohabitate together for many years.