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Does Indiana recognize common-law marriages?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | Family Law |

Only a few states recognize common-law marriages, and all of them have strict definitions of relationships that qualify for common-law marriage status.

If you are in a long-term relationship, you may wonder if Indiana is one of those states where common-law marriages are recognized.

Does Indiana recognize my common-law marriage?

Indiana abolished common-law marriage in 1958. As such, even if you have been together for 5, 10, 20 or even 50 years, Indiana does not recognize common-law marriages present day, even if you would have met the pre-1958 definition.

What if we do not want to get married?

You do not have to enter marriage if it is not the right choice for your relationship. But you also may want to consider setting up a cohabitation agreement, and using estate planning tools, like wills, trusts and power of attorneys. These can effectively give you many of the same marriage rights without actually getting married.

Cohabitation agreements

If you live together and trust someone implicitly to make decisions for you or the home you cared for together, if you are not married, the law may not. If you decide to separate down the road, a cohabitation agreement can address issues commonly handled by Indiana divorce courts, like property division and child custody. Cohabitation agreements can also address everyday issues, like paying bills and servicing debt.

Estate planning tools

Wills and trusts are useful for everyone, including couples who are not married. If you have a life partner, someone you have known for years, maybe you think you would be treated as married by the state. Unfortunately, that is usually not true.

Marriage defines a legal relationship, and if you do not want that, you can create other legal documents or entities, like a trust, to give you a say in how your final wishes are fulfilled. If you do not dictate your wishes legally, your estate will flow through the laws of intestate succession. These laws usually cut out non-blood-related people who are not married to the deceased.

Final thoughts

Marriage may not be for you, but there are practical considerations for all people to set up healthy relationships for today, tomorrow and after your passing. And, especially for those who are in long-term relationships that have built a life together, these practical considerations can be essential, should one of you pass, is injured or the relationship ends.