Common Law Marriage and the Putative Spouse in Minnesota

Posted by Tentinger Law Firm

Common law marriage refers to a situation in which people are deemed legally married simply because they cohabitate together for a long time and hold themselves out as if they are married, despite the fact that they have not followed the legal procedures to be married under state law.  In Minnesota, common law marriage laws were abolished back in 1941.  However, the courts in Minnesota will recognize a common law marriage if the parties were married under common law in one of the states that still do recognize common law marriage and have subsequently moved to Minnesota.

The term “putative spouse” refers to an apparently valid spouse of a person, who is not the legally valid spouse of the person because of a technical impediment, such as the failure to obtain a marriage license.  Under Minnesota’s putative spouse statute, if a person has cohabitated with another in the good faith belief that they are married, the person will be considered a putative spouse under Minnesota statutes and gains the same rights as a legal spouse, including the ability to seek spousal maintenance from the other person. Under the statute, the putative spouse status continues until knowledge of the fact that the person is not legally married, which terminates the status and prevents acquisition of further rights.

Even if a person is not considered a putative spouse, they still may be entitled to relief in the general civil court system rather than the family court.  If the parties own property that is titled in both their names, they each have contractual rights in the property that can be enforced in general civil court.  In addition, if the parties have children together and break up, they will have rights as the parents of the children to seek custody and child support in the family court system.

If you have cohabitated with someone, but were never married, and your relationship terminates, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected. To discuss your legal questions with an experienced family law attorney, contact Tentinger Law Firm at 952-953-3330 or use our quick contact form.