Common Law Marriage in Virginia
In Virginia, a valid marriage entails a marriage license and a ceremony performed by an authorized officiant.
Moreover, in Virginia, a couple might be deemed to have a common law marriage if they have lived together and held themselves out as married. As a result, they present themselves to others as being married, refer to each other as spouses, and otherwise act as if they are legally married. When defining whether a common law marriage exists, the courts may also contemplate other factors, including whether the couple shares finances, owns the property, and has children. However, these factors alone are inappropriate for beginning a common-law marriage in Virginia.
In Virginia, there is no common-law marriage. Instead, Virginia law requires that couples attain a marriage license and have a formal ceremony performed by a qualified officiant to be officially / legally married.
Living together for a certain period, bestowing yourselves as a married couple, or having children together does not automatically create a legal marriage in Virginia.
But, Virginia does recognize common law marriages that were recognized in other states or countries where they are recognized as legal. In these cases, couples who have established a common law marriage in another jurisdiction may have their marriage recognized in Virginia if the marriage meets the requirements of the jurisdiction where it was established.
Note: It is important to note that even if a couple’s common law marriage is familiar in Virginia, they must still go through an official divorce procedure to end the marriage.
If a couple is a common law married in Virginia, what rights and obligations do they have under the law?
Suppose a common law marriage is recognized in Virginia. In that case, the couple must have the same rights and obligations as a couple who obtained a legal marriage license and had a ceremony performed by an authorized officiant.
Here are the rights and obligations which may include:
- Property rights: Each spouse has the right to an unbiassed division of marital property in the event of divorce or death.
- Inheritance rights: Each spouse has the right to inherit from the other spouse in the event of death.
- Spousal support: If one spouse is economically dependent on the other, the dependent spouse may be enabled to spousal support, also known as alimony, in the event of divorce.
- Health insurance benefits: A spouse may receive health insurance paybacks through the other spouse’s employer.
- Parental rights: If the couple has children together, each spouse has the right to pursue Child custody and visitation of the children.
- Tax benefits: A couple who is known as married in Virginia may be entitled to tax benefits, such as filing a joint tax return.
- Liability for debts: Each spouse may be liable for debts experienced by the other spouse during the marriage.
How should individuals protect their rights and interests in a common-law marriage in Virginia?
Individuals who are in a common law marriage in Virginia can take numerous steps to protect their rights and interests:
- Establish the marriage: To establish a common law marriage in Virginia, the couple should have lived together and held themselves out as married. This means that they must present themselves to others as being married, refer to each other as spouses, and or else act as if they are legally married.
- To be known: It is also the best source to create a written agreement outlining the terms of the relationship, as well as how property will be divided and how debts will be paid in the event of a breakup.
- Keep good records: Keeping good records of joint finances, property ownership, and other shared assets can support and protect each spouse’s interests during a breakup. This includes keeping track of joint bank accounts, real estate deeds, and other important documents.
- Consult with an attorney: You need to consult an experienced family law attorney who can help individuals understand their legal rights and obligations in a common law marriage in Virginia. They even provide advice on how to protect assets and interests in the event of a breakup.
- Contemplate a prenuptial agreement: A prenuptial agreement is a written agreement that outlines how property will be divided and how debts will be paid in the event of a breakup. While prenuptial agreements are naturally linked with traditional marriages, they can even be used to defend couples’ interests in a mutual law marriage.
- Plan your future: Couples in a common law marriage must always have long-term plans, including whether they need to formalize their relationship with a legal marriage or civil union. Eventually, this ensures that both partners are on the same page and helps avoid legal disputes in the future.
What’s to be done next?
Though the laws related to common law marriage in Virginia can be quite complex, & the finest way to defend your rights and interests will completely depend on the case. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to acquire legal support.
Can a common law marriage be terminated in Virginia?
Yes, a common law marriage that is recognized in Virginia can be terminated through a divorce proceeding. However, in accordance with traditional marriages, the couple should go through the legal process of gaining a divorce in order to dismiss the common law marriage.
To receive a divorce in Virginia, the couple should meet the residency requirements, which generally need at least one of the spouses who has been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce. In addition, the grounds for divorce in Virginia include fault-based grounds, including adultery, cruelty, and desertion, and no-fault grounds, such as separation for a certain period.
Whereas the procedure of getting a divorce in a common law marriage in Virginia is like that of a traditional marriage. The couple should file a divorce petition, and the court will require evidence of the common law marriage, like proof that they held themselves out as married, lived together as a married couple, and shared finances and property.
The court will also require addressing issues associated with property division, spousal support, and child custody and support, if applicable.
Note: The process for terminating a common law marriage in Virginia can be complicated and may require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. So, instantly seek a Family Law attorney to discuss your common law marriage in VA.