Common law marriage?
16 October 2014 by Charlotte Knappett
You may have heard that rap singer Iggy Azalea has been presented with a divorce petition, despite the fact she did not realise she was married.
Maurice Williams, the rapper’s ex partner and former manager is seeking to end what appears to be a common law marriage. He claims that she agreed to be married, and that they started living together in Texas in September 2008, ‘holding themselves out as man and wife.’
The law in Texas states that a man and woman who live together for any length of time can be considered legally married, as long as they agree to be married and hold themselves out to others as a married couple. Despite the fact Azalea states that she never agreed to this, Mr Williams is asking a court to restrict the sale of any assets accumulated during their time together. If the court takes the view that the couple are legally married, the rappers assets including her music could be split between them both.
The situation that Iggy Azalea finds herself in, is not one that we should worry about here. Common law marriages have not existed in England since 1753, yet the belief that a period of living together – seven years is popular – confers legal protection persists. In fact, a survey conducted in 2013 found that 58% of people did not know that it is not a recognised legal status. These are worrying findings at a time when an increasing number of couples are choosing not to marry. The 2011 census recorded that over 10% of adults were cohabiting, and many are therefore doing so without realising the full implications of their situation.
Far from being presented with an unexpected divorce petition, many cohabiting couples in England may find themselves in similarly alarming situations. Some cohabiting couples may be under the impression that they are afforded similar rights as married couples. This is not the case. Choosing to live as cohabitants affects your tax situation, what happens upon the death of one of the couple, and what happens in relation to children and finances on separation.
It is important to remember that marriage gives rise to rights that are not necessarily available to unmarried couples. It is advisable to obtain legal advice about your situation if you are unsure as to what your rights are. Marriage is not for everyone, but it is important that where a couple does decide not to get married, they are doing so from an informed position and with the knowledge that the choice is right for them.
For information about living together agreements for unmarried couples, click here