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Can We Get Our Common Law Marriage Divorced in a Long Island, New York Court?

As a divorce attorney on Long Island, NY, I speak to many couples about specific legal details of marriage law in the state. Most of us think of marriage as a union between two people that includes some kind of ceremony, whether that takes place in a religious setting or a legal one. However, this is not always the case. While this may be the common perception, there are other forms of marriage recognized throughout the United States and around the world.

Common Law Marriage on Long Island, NYWhat is Common Law Marriage?

One of the most common forms of non-traditional marriage is what’s known as “Common Law” marriage. A Common Law marriage is generally considered a union of two people not formalized in the customary manner as prescribed by law but created by an agreement to marry followed by Cohabitation.

Legality of Common Law Marriage

The primary question about alternative marriage is the legality of such a union. This question becomes more important because legal marriage affects property ownership, rights of survivorship, spousal benefits, and other traditional marital issues. With so much at stake, marriage has become a matter regulated by law.

Marriage is Governed by State Law

In the United States, the regulation and recognition of marriage is a right reserved to the states, not the Federal Government. Marriage regulations and statutes are governed by state law. Each state has the right to set the rules regarding marriage in its state and may place restrictions on marriage, such as age requirements and the prohibition of interfamilial marriage. Most states also recognize a marriage as legal only when it follows certain procedures. Typically legal marriages are required to include a witnessed ceremony presided over by a lawfully authorized person, and fulfillment of specific license requirements. However, in some states, the marital union of a man and a woman can still be achieved in the most simple, time-honored ways.

Where is Common Law Marriage Legal?

In addition to traditional marriages, there are other types of marriages and family situations that entitle couples to rights in New York State. An alternative to a traditional marriage is called a Common Law Marriage. Currently, ten states and Washington, D.C. recognize the ability to create a common law marriage, including:
1. Alabama
2. Colorado
3. Iowa
4. Kansas
5. Montana
6. New Hampshire
7. Rhode Island
8. South Carolina
9. Texas
10. Utah
11. Washington, D.C.

N.Y. Recognizes Common Law Marriages of Other States

All states, including New York state, recognize a valid common law marriage even though the state itself does not allow common law marriage to be created. New York does not allow the creation of common law marriage, however, will recognize the marriage if it is created in one of the other states or districts that do. To be defined as a common-law marriage within the states that allow its creation, the two people must:
• agree that they are married
• live together
• present themselves as husband and wife

You Can Divorce a Common Law Marriage in NY

Since you can obtain a divorce in New York State from a valid marriage that occurred outside of New York, parties can obtain a divorce from their common law marriage in New York. That marriage must be valid, meaning created and recognized in one of the Common Law Marriage states. If you have any questions regarding the ability to obtain a divorce from your common law marriage in New York, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation at (631) 923-1910.