Deciding whether to marry a partner legally can feel overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know about common law marriage in Michigan.

Some couples cannot wait to get married and share their lives in an official union. Other couples may not feel the same way. While these couples may love each other and want to live together, they have no desire to marry. These unions are known as common-law marriages. In many states, common-law couples share the same rights and obligations as married couples. Michigan does not allow common law marriage, although common-law couples do possess certain rights within the state.

Related: Michigan Marriage Laws

What is a Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is a non-ceremonial marriage where two people agree they are married, live together, and present themselves as husband and wife in a permanent and exclusive relationship while assuming marital duties and obligations.

All 50 states recognize the legal union of marriage, allowing married couples to intertwine their rights and responsibilities. Some states also recognize common-law marriages if they meet certain requirements.

Eligibility requirements of common law marriage include:

  • The couple must live together for a certain period.
  • The couple must have a legal right to marry.
  • The couple acknowledges each other as husband and wife.

Does Michigan Still Recognize Common Law Marriage Today?

Michigan abolished common-law marriage in 1957. Today, a couple must consent and obtain a license to legally marry in Michigan. However, if a couple in an existing relationship had a valid common-law marriage before 1957, the state will recognize the common-law marriage.

Michigan will recognize a common-law marriage as valid in another state under the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution. A Michigan court can grant a divorce for a valid common-law marriage.

What Are The Current Requirements for Common Law Marriages?

Cohabitation alone will not establish a common-law marriage. Even in the few states (and the District of Columbia) recognizing common-law marriages, strict requirements apply. If a couple wants Michigan to recognize their out-of-state common-law marriage, they should consult a Michigan attorney. In many cases, couples should establish a durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. These enforceable documents provide a common-law couple with peace of mind in the event of an emergency.
Although Michigan no longer recognizes common-law marriage,

unmarried couples who live together may choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement in which they outline their mutual obligations concerning finances, real and personal property, child care, and other issues. Cohabitation agreements are enforceable as a matter of contract law in Michigan.

How Can Unmarried Couples in Michigan Preserve Their Rights?

Although Michigan does not recognize common-law marriages, unmarried couples can protect their rights through a cohabitation agreement, similar to a premarital agreement in the state. A cohabitation agreement can outline what each person will receive in property division if the couple separates.
Cohabitation agreements cannot outline provisions for child custody and child support. However, in Michigan, the non-custodial parent may need to pay the custodial parent child support, even when no cohabitation agreement exists.

Related: How to Get a Marriage License in Michigan

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If you or a loved one would like to know more about common law marriage in Michigan, get your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys today!