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Kentucky Common Law Marriage

What Is Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriage happens when a cohabiting couple presents themselves to the public as husband and wife without obtaining a marriage license or having a marriage ceremony. This type of marriage is permitted in a few states, including Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Rhode Island. However, requirements for common-law marriages are dependent on each state.

Common-law marriage is a popular option for partners that want to avoid the cost and formalities of a ceremonial wedding. Where a common-law marriage is permitted or recognized in a state, the couple is entitled to certain rights and benefits similar to individuals in formal marriages. Such rights include:

  • The right to share business property, real estate property, or personal property
  • The right to health insurance coverage on the spouse’s policy
  • The right to make health care decisions on behalf of the spouse if the spouse is incapacitated without a valid Health Care Directive
  • Prison visitation rights
  • Child custody rights

There are however certain disadvantages to common-law marriages, such as:

  • Couples in common-law marriages sometimes find it difficult to prove that the marriage exists, especially where a spouse dies and there is no legal document that serves as proof
  • Where divorce is filed, the alleging party has to prove the existence of the marriage
  • Possible loss of the right to survivorship

To enter into a common-law marriage in a state where it is legal, the couple must meet the state’s requirements. While conditions differ, most states require that both partners are of legal age and have lived together for a certain period.

Marriage in Kentucky

In 2019, Kentucky’s marriage rate was at 6.3 marriages per 1,000 residents, while the state’s divorce rate was 3.4 per 1,000 married couples. Over 49.8% of the state’s population was married. A survey of the Kentucky population aged 15 and older revealed that 50% of the females were married vs. 52% of men. 14% of the female demographic were either separated or divorced, compared to 12% for men.

Does Kentucky Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

Kentucky does not recognize common-law marriages contracted within the state’s borders. It only recognizes valid common-law marriages contracted in states where such marriages are allowed - in accordance with the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution. As a result, a legally married couple in a state that recognizes common-law marriages will be considered legally married in Kentucky.

Also, there is presently no law that confers governmental rights or benefits to couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions through registration in Kentucky. However, cohabitation agreements are enforceable in the state.

What is a Domestic Partnership in Kentucky?

A domestic partnership is an interpersonal relationship between two persons who live together and share a common domestic life but are not married. Since there is no law that specifically provides for the registration of the relationship, domestic partnerships are not enforceable in Kentucky unless proper estate planning is done. Estate planning protects the interests of both partners in case the relationship ends or one party dies.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement in Kentucky?

A cohabitation agreement is an agreement that specifies the division of assets, debts, and other relevant items between two individuals in a relationship, in the event that the cohabitation ends. Cohabitation agreements are entered into to preserve the couple’s jointly owned assets and to avoid lengthy litigation when the relationship ends. Because oral agreements are difficult to prove, it is best if the agreement is in writing. Furthermore, if cohabiting partners marry, their cohabitation agreement becomes null and void.

What are the Requirements for a Common-Law Marriage in Kentucky?

Kentucky does not allow the formation of common-law marriages. It only recognizes common-law marriages that originated in a state where they are legal. Furthermore, non-marital relationships such as domestic partnerships are rarely recognized in the state. Cohabitation agreements are the most common type of non-marital relationship enforceable in Kentucky.

How many years do you have to Live Together for Common-Law Marriage in Kentucky?

Because common-law marriages are not permitted in Kentucky, couples are not deemed common-law married in the state regardless of how long partners lived together. The implication is that they do not have the same rights as people who are formally married. Where spouses do not intend to have a formal marriage, they can consider cohabitation agreements.

What Does it Mean to be Legally Free to Marry in Kentucky?

To be legally free to marry, a couple must fulfill the conditions to get married in the state. One of the requirements is age, as Kentucky specifies that each person should be at least 18 years old. However, 17-year-old persons can get married if there is written consent from their parents or guardians. For persons that are 15 or 16 years old, a court has to approve the marriage. Relatives, including first and second cousins, cannot get married to each other in Kentucky. Also, persons that are adjudged incompetent or not legally divorced are not allowed to get married.

Furthermore, couples must have a medical examination conducted within 15 days before applying for a marriage license. A marriage license is required to get married in Kentucky. Marriage licenses are available at any county clerk’s office in the state. It usually costs between $32.50 to $35.50, depending on the county of choice. A marriage license is valid for 30 days and there is a three-day waiting period before the marriage can be solemnized. The couple will be required to complete a written application and swear that the information provided is true. The application requires the following information:

  • Full name
  • Age
  • Where each partner was born
  • Where each partner resides
  • Names of dependent children (if any)
  • Names, residence, and the birthplace of each partner’s parents
  • Information to determine if the individuals should not marry for any reason

The couple will also need to provide a means of identification and certain documents, including:

  • A driver’s license, Social Security Card, Picture ID, Passport
  • A certified copy of each partner’s birth certificate
  • A certified copy of a partner’s divorce decree if applicable
  • Proof of county residency (driver’s license, utility bill, etc.).

What is Intent to Marry in Kentucky?

Obtaining a marriage license in Kentucky establishes intent to marry. Marriage licenses are required for residents of the state who wish to marry. To sign the license, the couple must solemnly declare their intent to marry in front of two other witnesses.

What is an Informal Marriage in Kentucky?

In Texas, common-law marriages are referred to as informal marriages. Kentucky does not permit the creation of informal marriages in the state but recognizes their validity if formed in other states that do. As a result, a Texas couple who is legally married will have their relationship recognized in Kentucky.

How Do You Prove Common-Law Marriage in Kentucky?

In particular instances, an individual may have to prove the existence of their common-law marriage with their spouse. These instances could be claiming child custody or visitation, filing for divorce, insurance claims, or inheriting property. The person must provide evidence to establish the existence of the marriage based on the consent of both parties. The most preferred proof is a written agreement showing the desire to form the union signed by both partners.

In the absence of a written agreement, testimonies and other supporting documents can be relied on to prove the existence of the marriage. Examples of supporting documents include:

  • Bills for mutual utility accounts like gas, phone, and electricity, as well as joint utility accounts
  • Birth certificates naming both spouses as a child’s parents
  • Documents proving that one partner adopted the common-law partner’s surname
  • Documents such as driver’s licenses and insurance policies demonstrate that the partners share the same address
  • Loan documents, mortgages, and promissory notes proving the couple’s joint financial obligations
  • Mail sent to both spouses as a couple
  • Rental contracts or joint leases
  • Residential property title deeds demonstrating joint or shared ownership
  • Evidence that one common-law partner is registered on the other spouse’s employment record as an immediate family member
  • Testimonies of witnesses stating that the couple usually refer to each other as husband and wife.

Third-party websites may provide a convenient solution to obtaining related public records. These non-governmental platforms come with intuitive search tools that help simplify the process of accessing single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain public marriage records, requesters may need to provide:

  • The full name of both spouses (include first, middle, and last names)
  • The date the marriage occurred (month, date, and year)
  • The location where the marriage occurred (city and county)

How Do You Prove Common-Law Marriage in Kentucky After Death?

After the death of a spouse, the widowed partner may prove the common-law marriage by presenting supporting documentation. The partner could also present statements of relatives of the deceased testifying in support of the existence of the marriage. However, this option is only for common-law marriages formed in states with supporting laws outside of Kentucky. For the common-law marriage to be recognized in Kentucky, the couple must have met the criteria for recognition in the state where the union occurred.

Do Common-Law Marriages Require a Divorce?

Common-law marriages recognized in Kentucky require a divorce. The process of filing for a divorce is the same as that of a formal marriage. In Kentucky, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over divorce cases. The case must be initiated by a person who has lived in the state for over 180 days and should be brought to the wife’s county of residence. If the wife does not reside in Kentucky, the case should be brought to the husband’s county of residence. The marriage must also be irretrievably broken. The court will decide on custody, support, property disposition, and maintenance rights.

Does a Common-Law Wife Have Rights in Kentucky?

Common-law wives have the same rights as formally married wives. These rights include property distribution, child custody, and visitation rights in the event of death or divorce. However, claiming these rights is only applicable if the common-law marriage was contracted in a state that permits the formation of such marriage.

Can a Common-Law Wife Collect Social Security in Kentucky?

A common-law marriage performed in a state with common-law marriage laws entitles the couple to Social Security benefits. The requirement of validity must be fulfilled, and evidence must be provided by submitting a Statement of Marital Relationship Form and an additional statement from a blood relationship. The marriage must be acknowledged in the statement. The couple must provide the following information:

  • The year they began living together as a couple
  • The city/town and state where cohabitation began
  • The duration of cohabitation
  • The places where the couple has lived together
  • Whether or not the couple has children
  • The partners’ previous names (if changed)

Are Common-Law Wives Entitled to Half in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, common-law wives are not entitled to half of the marital properties. Instead, the state divides marital property by using equitable distribution. To do this, the court will first decide which properties are marital properties. Separate properties are usually excluded from the division.

After the decision, the court will divide the properties in equitable proportions after considering the following factors:

  • What each spouse contributed to the marriage
  • Acquisition of the property
  • The length of the marriage
  • The value of the property set aside for each spouse, and
  • Economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the division.

How Do You Get a Common-Law Marriage Affidavit in Kentucky?

Only states that allow common-law marriages grant marriage affidavits. Because common-law marriages are not permitted in Kentucky, these affidavits are unavailable in the state. Although the requirements of common-law marriage vary by state, most states follow the same general guidelines regarding information that should be included in an affidavit:

  • The affidavit must include the state where the partners decided to marry.
  • Both partners must be of legal marriageable age, according to the affidavit.
  • The decision date must be included in the affidavit.
  • Any other license or common-law marriage, including wedding and termination dates, must be included in the affidavit.

When Did Common-Law Marriage End in Kentucky?

Kentucky prohibited the contraction of common-law marriages in the state in 1852. However, it recognizes common-law marriages contracted before 1852. Kentucky also recognizes common-law marriages formed in states that permit the union.

What is Considered Common-Law Marriage in Kentucky?

Kentucky does not recognize common-law marriages formed in the state. It recognizes common-law marriages contracted in a state that recognizes common-law marriages. To prove the existence of a valid common law marriage formed in another state, both spouses must show that the law of the state and the requirements of the law have been met.

Does the Federal Government Recognize Kentucky Common-Law Marriages?

The federal government recognizes common-law marriages that are validly contracted in states where they are recognized. Presently, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize common-law marriages in the U.S. These states include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island. South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. States such as Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and South Carolina recognize common-law marriages that occurred before specific dates. Each state has its own laws regarding common-law marriages. Some states rely on specific laws to determine validity, whereas others rely on public policy, natural law, or positive law.

The federal government recognizes only common-law marriages that occur in states where they are permitted or considered legal. This refers to common-law marriages in the aforementioned states. Common-law marriages within these states qualify participants for federal income tax benefits as well as immigration benefits such as permanent residency.