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Many people are unfamiliar with how common law marriage actually works. Common law marriage is granted when a couple meets specific requirements determined by their state of residence. Many people believe that once a couple is living together for a certain period of time, they are considered common law married. In fact, there are usually more specific requirements than that. Before considering how to end a common law marriage, you should become familiar with your state’s laws regarding common law marriage to make sure you are legally in one.

Majority of states do not currently recognize common law marriage laws. California does not technically recognize common law marriage laws, however, there are other options for couple who seek common law marriage. Some counties in California do recognize common law marriage laws, though there are not standard requirements in place to acquire this type of marriage. Most couples who seek this type of union in California achieve it through some type of loophole.

If a couple wants the state to recognize their marriage without obtaining a marriage license, they can either sign power of attorney papers while in the relationship, or contract the common law marriage in a state and district which recognizes this type of marriage.

A power of attorney is a document which gives an individual authority to handle another person’s affairs. Granting a power of attorney is a serious decision, because the person who gains control of the other person’s affairs has no restrictions on what they can do with the other person’s principal assets. A couple should take great care before granting a power of attorney. The power of attorney can make decisions on how to handle the other’s assets, how their money is spent, how to handle the other’s government benefits and life insurance, and if the other party owns a business, the power of attorney can also take control of the daily operations.

If you and your partner signed power of attorney papers, or received a common law marriage while in a state which recognizes common law marriage, then your marriage is the same as a licensed marriage. So, just as in a licensed marriage, you and your spouse must follow the state’s legal procedures and dissolution proceedings. All of the same divorce issues will be considered during the proceedings, such as child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, and division of marital property. Any future marriage of either spouse will not be valid until the common law marriage is dissolved.

Sometimes, during a common law divorce proceeding one of the spouses may try to claim that there actually was no common law marriage, by claiming there was no joint tax returns, joint insurance policies, joint retirement plans, joint bank accounts, or any joint property. The judge will take all facts into account and determine if the common law marriage existed. Common law marriage and dissolution of common law marriage can be a complex issue, and it is always recommended that you consult with an attorney for advice on your specific circumstance.