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Does New Jersey Recognize Common Law Marriage?

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As our society progresses, more alternative types of families have been emerging.  Not every family consists of two parents of the opposite sex, formally married before having children, etc.  New Jersey has its own approach to these alternative relationships, including common-law marriage.  Learn about New Jersey’s treatment of common-law marriage below, and contact a knowledgeable Englewood family law attorney with any questions you may have.

What is Common Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage occurs when a couple have been living together for a sufficiently long time, holding themselves out as married to friends, family, and the public, but without having ever gone through an official ceremony or having obtained a state marriage license.  Many states will recognize these relationships as a marriage for the purposes of medical decision-making, child custody, alimony, and equitable division of assets upon divorce, even if the marriage was not previously ordained by the state.

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in New Jersey?

The short answer is:  No.  Under N.J.S.A. 37:1-10, the State of New Jersey officially outlawed common law marriage in 1939.  Common law marriages that existed before 1939 were grandfathered in and remained valid, but no new common law marriages have been recognized since.  Any relationship established after 1939 requires an official marriage license and ceremony compliant with New Jersey law to be a valid marriage. 

Can I Get Alimony Without Being Married?

New Jersey laws concerning the equitable division of property and spousal support do not apply to unmarried couples.  However, if a long-term unwed couple separates and there was a promise of financial support, New Jersey courts have recognized what they call “palimony” arrangements in limited circumstances.  These cases are limited and require both that the supporting party clearly promised to provide financial support independent of the relationship and that the requesting party cannot independently support themselves financially without the help of the other party. 

New Jersey made this even harder in 2010, requiring that the promise of financial support be made in writing.  For long-term relationships that began prior to 2010, you may still be able to argue for support even without a written promise, provided you have other clear evidence of the agreement.  If you are in a long-term relationship now and wish to have a support agreement, it is crucial that you put your support agreement in writing.  A seasoned family law attorney can help.

Can I Get Child Support Without Being Married?

You do not need to be married and seeking a divorce to file for child support.  Both parents are obligated to provide for the welfare of their children, whether they are married or not, and New Jersey has processes for requesting child support independent of divorce.  A seasoned New Jersey child support attorney can advise and represent you through your child support proceeding.

Get the Help You Need with Your New Jersey Family Law Matter

For dedicated and effective legal help with a New Jersey divorce or other family law matter, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at 201-440-6300.

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