Michigan Common Law Marriage

Michigan common law marriage was abolished in 1957.  Common law marriage is the recognition of a marriage without being officially married. Under Old English Common Law (and in many states) when a couple lives together and holds themselves out to friends and family as being married had the same effect as officially tying the knot.


Michigan common law marriage in the courts.

The notion of a Michigan Common Law marriage was revisited in 1999 by the Michigan Supreme Court in the case of Van v. Zahorik. Scott Van and Mary Zahorik lived together from 1986 until 1991 but were never married. Mary Zahorik had two children with Scott Van and informed Mr. Van that he was the father. The case was filed after Mr. Van had a relationship with another woman and Ms. Zahorik refused to let Mr. Van see the children. The Michigan Supreme Court once again determined that a Michigan Common Law Marriage is not entitled to legal recognition.

Tying the knot may not be as popular as it was 10 or 20 years ago. However, if a relationship breaks down, you and your significant other have no special rights regardless of the length of your relationship because Michigan Common Law marriage is a thing of the past. Therefore, people who live together and combine resources cannot gain access to Michigan divorce laws to divide property, debts, seek alimony or obtain other benefits of marriage. Michigan requires you to be married to obtain these benefits.

If you live together and do not want to marry, you may want to consider entering into a contract which sets forth what would happen if you break up. These contracts are called cohabitation agreements and if properly written are enforceable documents. In many ways a cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenup, except for people who decide not to marry at all. The agreement may include things like the division of property and liabilities if the relationship ends.

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The Oakland County Divorce attorneys at Findling Law practice statewide. We share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

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