A common law marriage is a kind of relationship where couples live together as husband and wife sharing the same house but without having obtained a marriage license or having had a marriage ceremony.
Common law marriage is not recognized in the state of New Jersey. New Jersey used to recognize common law marriages until the state passed a law eliminating common law marriage in 1939. As a result only common law marriages entered before December 1, 1939 are considered legitimate in New Jersey. You cannot acquire marital rights in New Jersey if you are living together with your partner as an unmarried couple.
Couples that are in a common law marriage generally cannot exercise the same rights as married couples. However this doesn’t mean that unmarried couples do not have any rights at all. It simply means that when they separate, the laws that apply to divorcing couples who were legally married do not apply to them. Any property and financial matters arising out of separation of unmarried couples are dealt with on a case by case basis.
For the full text of the law abolishing common-law marriage in New Jersey, see below:
37:1-10. Common law and other marriages without license; validity
Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed or taken to render any common law or other marriage, otherwise lawful, contracted before December first, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, invalid by reason of the failure to take out a license as herein provided. But no marriage contracted on and after December first, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, shall be valid unless the contracting parties shall have obtained a marriage license as required by section 37:1-2 of this Title, and unless, also, the marriage, after license duly issued therefor, shall have been performed by or before any person, religious society, institution or organization authorized by section 37:1-13 of this Title to solemnize marriages; and failure in any case to comply with both prerequisites aforesaid, which shall always be construed as mandatory and not merely directory, shall render the purported marriage absolutely void.
Amended by L.1939, c. 227, p. 624, s. 1, eff. July 18, 1939.
Palimony & Common Law Marriage In NJ
Palimony is defined as compensation made by one member of an unmarried couple to the other after separation. In the case that an unmarried couple decides to end their relationship and separate, either one of the partners can seek financial support from the other couple. This is called palimony.
2010 – New Jersey Palimony Laws Change
Palimony claims were awarded without any prior written agreement or documentation until a law restricted this in January 2010. Under the new law, all palimony claims are allowed in court only if there is a written agreement. So in order to lay claim for a valid palimony:
- There should be a written agreement to pay for financial support
- The agreement must be signed by the person who is going to pay the financial support
- The agreement must be made with the independent advice of counsel
If you are in a common law marriage in NJ and if your partner has agreed to pay for financial support in the event of separation, it is crucial that this agreement be put in writing. Unmarried partners have no obligation/duty to provide support money in case of separation. You cannot make a claim for financial support if your partner promised to marry you but didn’t. Even if your partner promised to provide you financial support for life, he/she is not obliged to unless there is a written agreement.
Property Distribution and Rights in Common Law Marriage In NJ
When it comes to property or asset distribution for unmarried couples seeking a separation, the general rule of ‘equitable distribution’ for married couples doesn’t apply. However, the court will try to give a fair distribution of property between the parties involved.
To get an idea of what the court considers when making an equitable distribution of property, take a look at some of the relevant factors below:
Duration of the marriage;
Age and physical/emotional health of each spouse;
Each spouse’s income;
The couple’s standard of living;
The economic circumstances of each spouse;
Each spouse’s contribution to the couple’s marital property (including a spouse’s contribution as a homemaker); and
Any other factors the court deems relevant.
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