Kansas Common Law Marriage: A Complete Guide + FAQs (2024)

July 9, 2024

At The Bright Family Law Center, LLC, we understand that common-law marriage can be confusing for many. This blog post provides a comprehensive guide to common-law marriage in Kansas, including its legal recognition, requirements, and implications. Whether you’re considering a common law marriage, need information on dissolving one, or want to hire an asset division attorney, we can help you navigate the complexities.

Explanation of Common-Law Marriage and Its Legal Recognition in Kansas

Common law marriage is recognized based on the couple’s actions and intentions rather than a formal ceremony and marriage license. In Kansas, common-law marriages are legally recognized, meaning that couples who meet the state’s criteria for common-law marriage have the same legal protections and obligations as those who are formally married.

Requirements for Establishing a Valid Common-Law Marriage in Kansas

To establish a valid common-law marriage in Kansas, the following are considerations made in a court’s determination:

  • Mutual Agreement: Whether both parties had a mutual agreement to be married. This means that both individuals intended to be married and consider themselves as such.
  • Cohabitation: Whether the couple lived together. There is no specific duration required for how long they must live together, but cohabitation is an important consideration.
  • Public Presentation: Whether the couple publicly presented themselves as a married couple. This can include using the same last name, referring to each other as husband and wife, and filing joint tax returns.

How Much Time Must a Couple Live Together to Have a Common Law Marriage?

Kansas law does not specify a minimum amount of time a couple lived together to recognize common-law marriage. Key factors are the mutual agreement to be married and the public presentation of the relationship as a marriage. 

How the Couple Publicly Present Themselves as Married

Public presentation is a crucial element of common-law marriage. Couples must demonstrate to the community that they are married. This can be done through various actions, such as:

  • Using the same last name
  • Referring to each other as husband and wife in social settings
  • Jointly owning property 
  • Having joint bank accounts
  • Filing joint tax returns
  • Wearing wedding rings

These actions help establish the couple’s intent to be married in the eyes of the community.

Do You Need a Written Agreement to Establish a Common-Law Marriage?

No, a common-law marriage contract is not required to establish a common-law marriage in Kansas. The mutual agreement to be married can be verbal, as long as it is clear and the parties intended to be married. However, having written documentation can be helpful in proving the existence of a common-law marriage if it is ever questioned.

The Dissolution of a Common-Law Marriage in Kansas

Dissolving a common-law marriage in Kansas follows the same legal process as dissolving a formal marriage. This means that couples must go through the divorce process, which includes:

  • Filing a Petition: One spouse must file a petition for divorce in the appropriate court.
  • Serving the Petition: The petition must be served to the other spouse.
  • Division of Property: The court will divide marital property and debts.
  • Child Custody and Support: If there are children involved, the court will determine custody arrangements and child support.
  • Finalizing the Divorce: Once all issues are resolved, the court will issue a final divorce decree.

Key Considerations and Legal Implications for Couples in Common-Law Marriages

Couples in common-law marriages have the same legal rights and obligations as those in formal marriages. This includes:

  • Common Law Marriage and Property Rights: Both parties have rights to marital property and debts.
  • Inheritance Rights: Spouses in common law marriages have inheritance rights under Kansas law.
  • Spousal Support: One spouse may be entitled to spousal support (alimony) in a separation.

It is essential for couples in common law marriages to understand these rights and obligations to protect their interests.

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Obligations of Couples in Common Law Marriage

The obligations of couples in common law marriages are generally the same as those in formal marriages. These include:

  • Financial Support: Both spouses are responsible for supporting each other financially.
  • Debt Responsibility: Both spouses may be responsible for debts incurred during the marriage.
  • Parental Responsibilities: If the couple has children, both parents have legal responsibilities for their care and support.

The primary difference is that common law marriages do not require a formal ceremony or marriage license, but the legal obligations remain the same.

How Property and Asset Division Comes About in Case of a Separation

In a separation, the division of property and assets in a common law marriage follows the same principles as in a formal marriage. The court will consider factors such as:

  • Length of the Marriage: The duration of the marriage can impact the division of property.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: Both financial and non-financial contributions (e.g., homemaking, child-rearing) are considered.
  • Economic Circumstances: The financial situation of each spouse will be taken into account.

The goal is to achieve a fair and equitable division of marital property and debts.

FAQs About Kansas Common Law Marriage

Can a common law marriage be established if one party is already married to someone else?

No, both parties must be legally free to marry. If one party is already married, a common law marriage cannot be established.

Can a common law marriage be recognized if the couple moves to another state?

It depends on the laws of the state to which the couple moves. Some states recognize common law marriages established in other states, while others do not.

How can a common law marriage be proven in court?

Evidence such as joint tax returns, property ownership documents, and testimony from friends and family can help prove the existence of a common law marriage.

Can a common law marriage be converted into a formal marriage?

Yes, a couple in a common law marriage can choose to have a formal marriage ceremony and obtain a marriage license.

What happens if a common law marriage is disputed during a separation?

The court will examine evidence to determine whether a valid common law marriage existed. If the court finds that a common law marriage existed, the couple will go through the divorce process.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Guidance on Common Law Marriages

Common law marriage in Kansas provides couples with the same legal rights and obligations as formal marriages, but it requires meeting specific criteria. Understanding these requirements and the legal implications is crucial for couples considering or currently in a common law marriage. At The Bright Family Law Center, LLC, we are here to provide guidance and support for all your family law needs, including common law marriage and its dissolution. If you have any questions or need legal assistance, please contact us for a free consultation.