SOUTHCOAST ESTATE PLANNING BLOG
My Boyfriend and I Have Been Living Together for 7 Years. Are We Married?
This is an excellent and very common question. It’s a widespread misconception that if a couple lives together for 7 years or more in Massachusetts then they are considered married under common law. Massachusetts, however, does not recognize common law marriage. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived together for 7 years, 10 years or 30 years. Under Massachusetts law there is no common law marriage.
What Does This Mean to Me?
What it basically means is that no matter how long you’ve lived together in a relationship there are no real legal protections for you and the contributions you’ve made to the relationship if you break up or if one of you dies.
If you happen to watch the popular show Judge Judy, then you know that Judge Judith Sheindlin is famous for saying that “when you live together, you’re just playing house.” What she basically means by this is that there’s no “rule book” that judges can look at to split up property when a couple lives together. That’s a very fair way of describing how it is in Massachusetts for couples who cohabit.
How Do I Protect My Interests if I’m Living Together?
Probably the most common question that I am asked by someone who is living together is “how do I protect myself and my property if Massachusetts doesn’t recognize common law marriage?” (The other question I’m most commonly asked is “how do I protect my kids and make sure they get my property if I’m living together?”).
One way to protect yourself is by signing a cohabitation agreement with your partner. A cohabitation agreement is a written contract that is similar to a prenuptial agreement because it addresses issues such as the division of property and cash assets when a couple breaks up or one of them dies. Cohabitation agreements have been held to be enforceable contracts in Massachusetts so they are a very effective way to protect yourself is something goes wrong in a relationship.
Another way to protect your interests is the manner in which you hold “title” to any property. “Title” is just a fancy way of saying who owns the property. If you look at the “title” to your car, for example, you’ll see who the registered owner is with the Commonwealth.
Using title as a way to protect yourself isn’t as strong or as effective as a cohabitation agreement, so you’ll want to be sure to consult with an attorney who is experienced in representing cohabiting couples before you take any steps.
Do Yourself a Favor and Protect Yourself This Year
More couples are living together in committed relationships than ever before in our history. You would amazed, though, at the number of cohabiting couples who haven’t protected their own personal interests with a cohabitation agreement or some other form of legal planning. When the couple breaks up, the stress and added legal expense is amazing.
If you’d like to schedule a consultation with Attorney Andrew Garcia just submit the following form. The consultation can be done one-on-one (without your cohabiting partner) and is completely confidential. Take the first step to protecting yourself this year – contact us today.