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Common Law Marriage in Illinois

Posted on in Family Law

cohabitation-living-together-agreement-rights.jpgAccording to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, common law marriages are not recognized or considered valid in Illinois. Such unions have been prohibited for more than 100 years, as Illinois was one of the first states to require all couples to obtain licenses to marry so that the marriage could be properly recorded by the state. Since the law against common law marriage took effect in 1905, the state of Illinois and the country as a whole has experienced significant cultural and social evolution, with marriage itself having been redefined in recent years. Despite these changes, a couple who does not utilize the legal avenues to have their relationship recognized will not have the same rights and privileges of those who do.

Comparing Common Law Marriage to Same-Sex Unions

In a case recently heard by the First District Appellate Court in Illinois, a woman who spent 13 years with her partner before they got married asked the court to essentially recognize their common law marriage. She contended that for 13 years, she and her boyfriend lived as de facto husband and wife. Despite the law’s clear prohibition of common law marriage, the woman pointed to recent appellate decisions granting certain property considerations to same-sex couples who had split.

The appeals court rejected the woman’s request on two points. First and most obviously, the state law prohibits a court from recognizing common law marriages. The court also observed that the couple, in this case, experienced no legal impediments to getting married, while same-sex couples were not permitted to marry in Illinois until 2014. (Same-sex civil unions were legalized in 2011.)

Soon after this decision was published, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the appeals court ruling regarding same-sex couples, further solidifying the appellate court’s rejection of the woman’s claims.

Moving Forward

Statistics from around the country show that an increasing number of couples are deciding to hold off on marriage in favor of cohabitating, or moving in together. Some experts even point to the rise in cohabitation as a factor in the decrease of the American divorce rate. Cohabitation, however, can be very risky, as the recent appellate court ruling shows. In the absence of a legal marriage, the rights of each party regarding shared property are extremely limited, and a breakup could leave on or both partners with virtually nothing.

If you have questions about the Illinois laws pertaining to marriage and divorce, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. Call Pesce Law Group, P.C. at 630-352-2240 for a free consultation today. We will help you get the answers you need and will work with you in protecting your rights.

Sources:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2016/1stDistrict/1151620.pdf

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-illinois-supreme-court-domestic-partners-property-ruling-met-20160819-story.html

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