Cohabitation and Common Law Marriage in Illinois

Cohabitation Agreement

Not every couple is the same. Some couples want to get married, and others are perfectly happy living and sharing their lives together “unofficially.” But the law generally prefers “married” to “cohabiting,” and married couples enjoy legal rights that are not afforded to unmarried partners.

Some couples consider themselves married without going through the formalities. But does Illinois recognize that kind of partnership as marriage?

Does Illinois Recognize Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage occurs when a couple lives together for a long period of time and holds themselves out to family, friends, and community as being married. There is no ceremony, and the couple never signs a marriage license.

While Illinois does not allow its citizens to enter into common law marriage, it does recognize common-law marriages validly entered into in other states. (Only eight states currently permit common law marriage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including Iowa and Kansas.)

If a common-law married couple moves to Illinois, they are entitled to the same protections as couples legally married in this state. This means that the couple can get divorced in Illinois and a court can divide their marital assets. However, the couple must establish that:

  • Common-law marriage was recognized in the state where they claim to have “been married;”
  • They met the common law marriage requirements of that state; and
  • They did not already divorce in another state.

What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have in Illinois?

But what about unmarried couples who live together in Illinois? Do they have any legal rights when property disputes or child custody issues arise after a breakup?

In August 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that unmarried couples have no legal right to each other’s property if they break up. This is true even if the couple has children together.

Ending a long-term relationship can be complicated, even without children. That’s why some couples enter into a cohabitation agreement.

A cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement. It is a contract between two consenting adults that allows them to address how to commingle their finances and distribute their assets if the relationship doesn’t work out.

But keep in mind that a cohabitation agreement cannot set the terms of child support or parenting time, which must be approved by a court.

An experienced attorney can help you negotiate a cohabitation agreement and can also help you enforce its terms.

Contact Us Today for Assistance

The dedicated Naperville family law attorneys at the Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC, can help determine your rights under Illinois law.

Contact us today for a free consultation if you are seeking a divorce, considering a cohabitation agreement, or have any other family law-related issue.


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