New York abolished common-law marriage in 1933, and other states soon followed suit. Today, only a dozen or so states recognize common-law relationships. They include Texas, Utah, Montana, and Rhode Island.

This division raises some important family law questions. If you and your spouse had an officially-recognized common-law marriage in Texas (for example), and you moved to New York State, then does this mean that your relationship has no legal standing?

Not quite. The U.S. Constitution has a “full faith and credit” clause that requires all states to honor legal decisions made in other states. This includes marriages. If you form a common-law marriage in a state that allows it and move to New York, your relationship will be given full faith and credit, provided that it was formed according to the law of that state. While common law state rules vary, you will generally be considered married if:

  • You and your spouse agreed to be married
  • Neither of you is legally married to someone else
  • You live together as a married couple
  • You have presented yourselves to others as a married couple

If you want to end your common-law marriage in New York, then a local divorce attorney can advise you on how to proceed. Even if your relationship is not recognized for some reason but you have children together, you can still request the court’s assistance with matters related to child custody, support, and visitation.

Domestic partnerships

Domestic partnerships are New York’s “answer” to common-law marriage. It is the only legal union (other than traditional marriage) recognized by state law. To register as a domestic partnership in New York City, you and your significant other must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Not be related by blood or married to someone else
  • Be residents of New York City (or, at the very least, one partner must be employed in the city)
  • Be in a close and committed personal relationship,
  • Have lived together continuously for six months
  • Not have been in another domestic partnership within the previous six months

If the relationship doesn’t work out, then terminating it is much easier than obtaining a traditional divorce. Either partner can file a termination statement at the city or county office where the partnership was originally registered. This statement ends the legal relationship, but the couple will still have to address issues like property division, maintenance, and child custody and support.

If you have questions about the status of your common-law relationship in New York or are thinking about forming a domestic partnership with your loved one, then contact Jayson Lutzky. He is a Bronx family law attorney and can provide the legal guidance you need to understand and protect your rights. Call 718-514-6619 to set up a free in-office initial consultation.