Legal Question in Family Law in Alabama

Legalities of cohabitation

Are there any legalities of cohabitation or common law marriage in Alabama I need to be concerned with before I let my boyfriend move in with me? Currently, I am purchasing my own home and I will continue to make the mortgage payment myself. All the bills will remain in my name also. He will give me a set amount of money each week to contribute to the expenses. I have accumulated a lot of personal property, savings, retirement accounts (cd's and 401k) and want to make sure all of my assets are protected. Are there any precautions I should take?

Asked on 7/14/00, 4:30 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

David Forrester Forrester & Associates

Re: Legalities of cohabitation

The key to not having a common law marriage in the State of Alabama is simply DO NOT:

File joint taxes;

Have joint checking or savings accounts;

Have joint or mutual credit cards or other accounts;

Tell people you are man or wife;

Buy things together like a car or house;

Write little notes or letters to each other containing the words “husband”, “wife”, or “marriage”; or

Wear wedding rings.

Note: I did not include do not get pregnant as that simply does not seem be decisive anymore. Nor have I included sexual relations as there is no requirement for consummation (sexual intercourse) to seal a marriage vow in the State of Alabama.

The law simply states that a common law marriage exists when two adults, without any legal

hinderment to a marriage to each other (such as being married to someone else) behave in public in

such a way that a person of ordinary sensibilities would perceive them as being man and wife. This would then constitute proof of expression of the mutual consent of the parties that they were in fact married. If you will look at the above list, all would be indicators of such intent.

The simplest way of (at least by the bare face of the law) is for a couple to march into an Alabama

State Park Hotel get a room, and both sign the register/guest book as man and wife. This would be mutual expression of intent to be married in an official state public document. Don’t even have to carry her/him over the threshold and takes 30 seconds.

Some do’s you may consider are:

Maintain at least a marginal residence elsewhere, even if it is just a tooth brush and a reserved spot on the couch in the den at your brother’s house;

Prepare and sign a formal sublease agreement; or

Prepare and sign a formal PreNuptial Agreement.

I particularly recommend the PreNuptial Agreement because you can not only expressly declare your intent not to be married, but predivid your assets in case of split up or even divorce after a

subsequent legal marriage or finding of common law divorce. If you do this use a lawyer, just don’t sign something you get off the net or out of a book. Remember knowledge is power, and practice makes perfect, that folks is why you use a lawyer.

If we can be of assistance, please contact us at Forrester & Associates, 256-435-1007.

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Answered on 9/09/00, 8:41 am

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