How to Get a Common-Law Divorce

By Legal Editor

A common-law marriage can be dissolved by a court if common-law marriages are recognized in your state. If they are not, there are steps you can take to achieve the same results a divorce would offer.

Understand that in some states you can live together as a couple for a number of years and be considered legally married without ever having had a wedding ceremony.

Know that if you are living with a partner and decide you want a "divorce," you will need to first consult your state's law to determine if common-law marriages are recognized by your state.

File divorce papers if common-law marriages are recognized, you can file divorce papers, asking a court to dissolve your marriage, divide your property and determine custody, child support and alimony.

Realize that if common-law marriage is not recognized in your state, or if it is and you would rather not go to court for a divorce, there are several options available to you that will help you end your relationship and tie up legal loose ends.

See a mediator. A mediator can help you resolve all of the issues before you and set out your agreement in a binding contract. Mediation can solve all of your issues in one process.

File papers in your local family court. If you have children with your partner, you will need to have a determination of custody, visitation and child support. You do not need to be married to have a court assist you with this.

Try to divide your property on your own. Have each person take what he or she brought to the marriage and divide the rest in half or in any way that you both feel is fair. If you are unable to do so, you can file a small claims case for return of property and the court will divide up the property.

Recognize that whoever is named as the debtor on any debts will be the person who is legally responsible for the amount owed. It may be possible to go to small claims court and prove that a promise was made by the other party to pay some or all of the debt.

Find out if your state allows palimony suits. These are cases that seek alimony by unmarried partners. You should talk to an attorney experienced in this area.