Property Division for Common Law Marriages in Kansas

April 10, 2024

Marriage is a legally recognized partnership that brings two individuals in a marital relationship into a formalized union. Marriages are often associated with a big ceremony and legally valid documentation but there is another type of marital relationship called common law marriage.

It can be beneficial for couples and those filing for a formal divorce to sit down with a family law firm in Overland Park for a free consultation to discuss marriage, common law marriage, and any other family law concerns.

Does Kansas Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Kansas is one of seven states that legally recognize common law marriage; Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Colorado are the others. However, common law marriage in Kansas isn’t a straightforward process that involves obtaining a marriage license and engaging in a formal ceremony. There are legal standards and specific requirements that serve as a common law marriage contract in Kansas. 

When two spouses are seen as spouses in a marital relationship, that usually is enough to prove common laws. Since it was legally established, common law marriage provides legal recognition to couples who have cohabited and presented themselves as married but who, for various reasons, didn’t or couldn’t undergo a formal wedding ceremony.

A common law partner union also allows a legally recognized relationship to form when there may be cultural, financial, or personal barriers associated with traditional marriage. Each state that allows common-law marriage has established its own requirements for those seeking the benefit of a state-recognized marriage. 

Common Law Marriage In Kansas

Kansas recognizes common law marriages and treats them with the same legal respect as ceremonial marriages. Establishing a valid common law marriage in Kansas requires the following elements:

Actual and Mutual Agreement

Both parties must demonstrate that they have a mutual and present agreement of marital partnership.  This agreement is paramount in establishing common-law marriage in Kansas.

Continuous Cohabitation

Continuous cohabitation is also another pillar of a common law marriage. Living together as a married couple can help validate the marriage but is not required for the common-law union to be legally recognized in Kansas. However, living together may help demonstrate a shared life.

Public Declaration of Marriage

Wedding bands are a common way that couples publicly show they are married. Kansas recognizes common law marriages when a couple publicly declares their marital status and consistently presents themselves as a married couple to their family, friends, and the public.

Kansas laws recognize a common law marriage when each partner can prove that:

  • The parties have a mutual present agreement to be married
  • The parties hold themselves out to be married 
  • The parties are legally eligible to marry each other.

Holding Out to be Married

Correctly answering the following questions can help determine if the couple is holding out to be married under Kansas law: 

  • Does the couple introduce one another as husband and wife? 
  • Does the public, family, and friends consider them to be a married couple in a relationship? 
  • Does the couple file joint tax returns or joint income tax returns? 
  • Do they fill out other documentation as married or use the other’s last name?
  • Do they have joint bank accounts?

Common Law Legal Eligibility in Kansas

Each party must be old enough to get married under Kansas law and have the capacity to make the decision to marry to legally establish a common law partnership. Neither can be currently married to another person and the marriage must not be incestuous. The following Kansans are not allowed to establish a common law partnership:

  • Minors under the age of eighteen 
  • Individuals that do not have the mental capacity to enter a marriage
  • Individuals closely related to one-another
  • Those who are already in a legally-recognizable marriage to another individual

Dividing assets can be difficult, but an experienced attorney will know exactly how to approach a common law breakup. 

Misconceptions Surrounding Kansas Common Law Marriage

Here are some prevalent misconceptions about common law marriage:

  • Living together for seven years does not automatically make you common law married
  • Having children and living together does not make you common law married. 
  • The only way to dissolve a common law marriage is through divorce

There is no legal difference between ceremonial marriage, traditional marriages, and common law marriages. Kansas family law professionals can help you have a common law marriage recognized, understand common law marriage in Kansas, inform you about legal protections, and assist with new common law marriages. Laws change, and your marriage law specialist can keep you up to date on which laws apply to your partnership. 

What Is Common Law Divorce in Kansas?

Only divorce or death can end a common law marriage. Kansas common law divorce proceedings involve formal hearings, where the court handles property division, child custody, child support, and alimony. It is important to note that the lack of documentation often present in common-law marriages may make this process more complicated.

Photo of scales

Property Division in Common Law Marriages

Couples in a Kansas common law marriage are entitled to the same legal rights and responsibilities as couples in formally recognized marriages. Each common law partner has the following rights:

  • The right to inherit property from their spouse
  • Access to health care benefits
  • The right to make medical decisions for each other
  • The right to document and name your spouse as a dependent

Determining Marital Property vs. Separate Property

Distinguishing between marital and separate property is a critical first step in the division of assets during the separation or dissolution of a marriage. Marital property, also known as community property, can include all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage, like real estate, vehicles, investments, and more. 

Separate property may refer to assets acquired before the marriage, like an inheritance or gifts given to one individual partner. However, distinguishing between the two can be difficult. Kansas family courts aim for an equitable, though not always equal, distribution of marital assets. 

Kansas courts consider the following key factors to ensure an equitable distribution of assets;

  • Marriage duration
  • Age and physical health
  • Economic circumstances, earning potential, and financial situation
  • Marriage contributes (financial and non-financial)
  • Future capacity to earn 
  • Education, skills, and employment opportunities 
  • Property and how it was acquired

Whether you’re in a common law marriage or considering your options, knowledge of these legal frameworks is crucial to protect your interests.

Experienced Family Law Attorney for Property and Common Law Marriage Kansas

If you need help to understand your relationship situation, the legal implications, and the requirements for common-law marriage, speak with The Bright Family Law Center right away for a free consultation. We use our experience to handle property division disputes by providing customized legal solutions for all of your common law marriage needs. When spouses examine their life in court, things can get messy; hiring an experienced common law marriage legal professional can help protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.