Recently, I posted an innocent video on Tiktok asking people what they call their long-term significant others.
In the video, which you can see below, I asked people not to come at me with the "just get married" comments because getting married is expensive and it's something that my guy and I will do whenever we can buy a house. Or whenever we want.
Well, that outraged a number of people and, I'm not going to lie, that was unexpected.
The main themes in the comments were, "You're obviously scared of commitment," and, "You'll really regret this when something happens to you and you have NO RIGHTS," and, "Anything over 6 years is common law marriage. So, you're married. Get over it."
As I said, the aggressive tone in a lot of the comments was surprising. But, were they right?
Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Michigan?
First, let's start with what common law marriage is defined as.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, common law marriage,
is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not purchased a marriage license or had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony.
Contrary to popular belief, common law marriage is not recognized nationwide. The states that currently recognize it are:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
So, to answer the question, no. Common law marriage is not recognized in Michigan.
So, What Rights Do I Have?
Let's be clear...when people are frantically commenting things like, "But you'll have no rights and you'll be sorry," they're usually talking about property. Specifically, the property you both acquired over the course of the relationship.
Should you break up, the division of that property can get tricky and expensive in the legal sense.
That's where the cohabitation agreement comes in.
A cohabitation agreement essentially grants a couple the same legal rights that are automatically applied when two people enter into a legal marriage. It can include assets that each person had prior to the relationship, property and assets acquired during the relationship, debts, and more.
And, you can create a cohabitation agreement anytime in the relationship. The goal is simply to establish what is personal property and what should be considered a joint property. That way, IF you split up, you can skip the hassle of any legal fights over said property.
That covers a breakup. What about medical decisions?
Estate Planning and Power of Attorney
Unfortunately, there are situations in life where a medical emergency might require another party to make decisions on a person's behalf.
While a cohabitation agreement doesn't grant any rights in this sense, a meeting with an attorney to establish power of attorney can. You do not have to be related to or married to an individual for this to be established. Read more here.
Should you have more questions, I would definitely recommend consulting with a trusted attorney and making sure you and your significant other are on the same page both in the relationship and legally, too.
As an only child that lost both parents before I hit 30, I understand that these kinds of conversations are complicated and difficult. But, I urge everyone, especially if you have kids, to make sure everything is sorted either with a Will, Power of Attorney, or otherwise.
In the midst of dealing with grief or stress, the last thing your loved ones need to be worrying about is who is in charge of making medical or final decisions.
On that cheery note, a coworker of mine recently asked the question: Do you need a marriage license to get married in Michigan? Here's what he found:
If you're single, however, and looking to find that forever love (even if you don't get married), check out this guide to setting up a "Pure Michigan" dating profile: