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Common-Law Marriage in MA


I lived with a man and had an exclusive relationship for 6 years until he left last month. Did we have a "common-law" marriage that would entitle me to some rights, like palimony? -- Anonymous

 

I get a lot of questions on this subject. Unfortunately, I can't offer you much encouragement. Massachusetts does not recognize a legal right to palimony, which is a claim for support that arises when two people end their relationship after living together without getting married. In fact, Massachusetts does not recognize common-law marriage, unless the union was formed under the laws of a state where the parties previously lived.  See, for example, Davis v. Misiano, 373 Mass. 261 , 262 (1977).  (In some states, if two people live together for a specified period of time, the state considers them legally married, a "common-law" marriage.)

Therefore, the only "rights" you would have regarding support or the division of your property would arise from general concepts of common law, such as property and contract law. So, for example, one party may seek to prove the existence of a written or oral contract regarding her right to joint property. Or one party may try to establish the existence of a contract that entitles him to financial support in return for services he rendered during the relationship. No, not that kind of service (such a contract would be unenforceable), but, perhaps, something like housekeeping or cooking services. Also, both parties to any defunct relationship have legally enforceable obligations to support their children. (Submitted by the Editor)

 

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