Marital Rights: “Divorce” After a Common Law Marriage or Cohabitation Relationship Ends
Serving Clients with Family-Law related issues across Union, Essex, and Middlesex Counties with offices in Linden, NJ
To be considered “married” in New Jersey, a couple has to obtain a valid marriage license and have a ceremony performed by an authorized person, society, institution, or organization to solemnize the marriage. Failure to obtain a license or hold a ceremony means the marriage is not valid. Although the concept of a “common-law marriage” or long-term committed relationship where a couple cohabitates/shares a household and act as husband and wife has become increasingly more common in New Jersey for committed couples who want to wait longer to marry or don’t wish to marry at all, New Jersey law does not afford these couples the same protection as couples in a legally valid marriage.
In 1939 the State of New Jersey officially outlawed common law marriage. Any relationship established after 1939 requires an official marriage license and ceremony compliant with New Jersey law to be a valid marriage. This should not be confused with a civil union or domestic partner relationship in New Jersey. For although New Jersey will recognize an out-of-state common law marriage, if it meets that state’s requirements for a valid common law marriage, unmarried NJ residents are often not afforded the numerous protections as married couples, such as alimony or spousal support, government assistance, pensions, insurance, and other benefits.
Since New Jersey does not have common law marriage, coupled with the barriers to financial support or palimony, this may present numerous challenges for a party that was engaged in a long-term relationship without the benefit of marriage, not to mention the difficulty regarding determining child support, child custody, or parenting time and visitation agreements.
At the Law Office of Edward S. Cooper, Esq., we have extensive experience helping unmarried partners draft, sign, validate, and contest nonmarital agreements of all kinds across Summit, Scotch Plains, Linden, Elizabeth, and the greater Union County area. We will protect your rights, safeguard your assets, and find practical solutions for you and your child’s financial future.
Palimony & Division of Property: Do I Need A Cohabitation or Prenup Agreement in NJ?
Palimony is an amount of money ordered by a court to be paid from one unmarried partner to another after the couple’s relationship. Under the current NJ law, “no claim shall be brought to court” or enforced unless the agreement is written. Such palimony promises are not considered valid unless the promise/agreement:
- was signed by the person making the promise and
- was made after each party has received independent legal advice or had their own attorney representing their interests in drafting the agreement.
The popularity of cohabitation agreements is partly because these kinds of agreements address the issue of financial support and areas like property division or even financial support for children from previous marriages. When division of property claims are filed, the court will typically base its decision on principles of equity and fairness and not on divorce statutes.
An attorney with extensive experience helping unmarried partners draft, sign, validate, and contest nonmarital agreements will be able to help you ensure whatever “cohabitation agreement” or prenuptial agreement you are signing is fair to you and legally binding. They will also assist you in demonstrating to the courts that whatever agreement you have already signed was entered into legally, or conversely that the agreement you signed was inaccurate, unfair, or that you were coerced into signing it, voiding the terms of the agreement.
Each case is different, and although you may trust your partner to do right by you, in the end, there is no substitute for consulting with an experienced NJ family law attorney to preserve your rights and assets.
Unmarried with Children: Child Support & Visitation Rights
Seeking child support, establishing paternity, and determining child custody can be stressful, timely, and expensive matters, and for many unmarried parents, the most efficient route may involve mediation or settlement.
New Jersey family law does not distinguish between unmarried or married couples regarding the child’s care and the ability to provide a safe and supportive home. Since both parents are obligated to provide for the welfare of their child, the priority is to understand what the best interests of the child are. If an unmarried parent wants to request child support, file for custody or parenting time, or visitation rights, a Family Part “FD” Non-dissolution Hearing is requested to determine these issues.
Navigating through this complex legal arena as an unmarried person can be equally or more challenging than divorce proceedings. If you or someone you know is in this situation and doesn’t quite know what to do, it is important to retain a qualified NJ family law attorney. Our attorneys will zealously work to protect your relationship with your child and maximize your parental rights.
Contact a Linden, NJ Long-Term Relationship or Common Law Marriage Attorney Today
At the Law Office of Edward S. Cooper, Esq., we have extensive experience helping clients across Summit, Scotch Plains, Linden, Elizabeth, and the greater Union County area. Attorney Edward Cooper believes that by listening closely to his client’s unique needs and concerns, he can better understand their situation and more effectively provide options for securing the support, custody, or visitation rights they desire.
Contact us online today or through our Linden, NJ office at (908) 481-4625 to speak with Edward Cooper and schedule a confidential consultation regarding any long-term relationship, marital agreement, or family law issues you may have.