“If you live in a ‘common-law marriage’, are you entitled to same support and property division as if you were legally married?”
In the State of Illinois, there is no common-law marriage. Living together does not give one party any rights against the other. Therefore, you would not be entitled to the same support and property division as if you were legally married. In fact, you would not be entitled to any support or property.
Common-law marriage is recognized in some states. Parties can live together without being actually married and be entitled to support and/or property when the relationship breaks up. Illinois actually did recognize this relationship at one time — before June 30, 1905.
Although neither party has rights against the other by simply living together, there may be other enforceable rights resulting from an agreement made by the parties. For example, the parties might agree to pool their earnings and share the assets bought with their combined funds. An Illinois court would enforce this agreement so that one party would have rights against the other. In this situation, a written agreement would be best, because oral agreements can sometimes be difficult to prove.
If you are in a relationship where you live together without being married, it’s wise to see a lawyer. Ask him to draw up an agreement reflecting your financial arrangements.
Jay A. Frank is a is a divorce and matrimonial practitioner in Chicago with over 35 years of experience. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. He can be reached at (312) 828-9600. View his Divorce Magazine profile.