How to Separate From a Common-Law Partner

By Teo Spengler

Breaking up is hard to do, as hard for common-law partners as for those married in a church. The common law allowed two people to declare themselves married without the help of court or clergy. A few states still recognize these unions as legal marriages and allow such couples to divorce. Most states do not, however, and common-law couples either tailor individual separation agreements or battle it out in the courts.

Common Law Marriage States

The process of separation after a common-law marriage depends on whether your state recognizes common-law marriages as legal marriages. States like Colorado and Texas allow these marriages, and common-law couples proceed through the divorce courts to obtain a legal end to their union. Some states that do not permit common-law marriages still permit common-law partners to divorce if they were married in a state where the union was legal.

Separating in Other States

If you were married in a state that does not recognize common-law marriages, you probably do not have access to its divorce courts. Your road can be easier or harder, depending on whether you are able to effect an amicable separation agreement. If you can, the agreement controls your separation. If not, you must battle out property and custody issues in state court without the protection and structure of divorce laws.

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Does Colorado Recognize Common Law Marriages?


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Common Law Divorces in California

There is no such thing as common law divorce, so California law does not consider you divorced if you are legally married but attempt to divorce by simply separating and saying you are divorced. In fact, California recognizes neither common law marriage, in which a couple becomes married by living together and saying they are married but never formally marrying, nor common law divorce, in which a couple might simply split up without obtaining a divorce through the legal system.

Can I Collect Alimony in California if I Enter a Registered Domestic Partnership?

Although California no longer awards marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the state officially recognizes these pairings by allowing same-sex couples to register a declaration of domestic partnership with the California secretary of state. A same-sex couple living in a registered domestic partnership is entitled to many of the same benefits of marriage and divorce as a married, heterosexual couple -- including alimony after the couple breaks up.

Sharia Law on Divorce

When immigrants arrive in the United States, they bring the traditions of their faith with them. Sharia and its laws guide devout Muslims. Based on the teachings of the Quran and Mohammed, this Islamic code defines acceptable behavior in almost every aspect of a Muslim’s life, and it extends to ways in which a couple may end their marriage.

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