At Fidelity Law Firm, we have prepared a number of articles and publications covering a wide range of topics, as well as specific areas of law.
When live-in lovers decide to call it quits: Common Law Marriage in Maryland
When a couple who are not legally married live together for an extended period of time and hold themselves out as an entity, it is called a common law marriage. Many jurisdictions acknowledge common law marriages and, in those states, the couples are entitled to certain rights, privileges, and responsibilities akin to married couples. In other words, they are treated as married couple for legal purposes, including the requirement that you need to get a legal divorce in order to end your relationship.
Maryland is not a common law marriage state.
What this means is that regardless of how intimate the relationship you have with your partner, or how many years you have lived together in the same residence, or whether you have children together, an estate plan, joint purchases, bank accounts or debt, if you are not legally married, the State of Maryland will not accord to you any rights or privileges of marriage.
This means that you may not be able to claim community property acquired during the relationship if you and your partner separate. You cannot ask for use and possession of the home, demand that the house be sold and proceeds equitably distributed between you and your partner, receive a portion of any retirement plans, and receive spousal support if you struggle with a health condition or if you lack education and training to find suitable employment, among others.
Legal rights for unmarried but living together
You still have rights if you are unmarried but living together. In the case of property, it becomes a matter of whether your name is on the property you are asking to retain. This means if you are driving a vehicle that belongs to your ex, your ex has the legal right to reclaim it. If you live in a house that belongs to your partner, he/she can evict you. Debt that has only your name on it is considered yours and legally you are responsible for it. If you have children, you can also ask the court to determine and agreement on child custody and a parenting plan, and even seek child support.
If you are in a long-term relationship that is ending and are worried about your rights, you may want to discuss your situation with our family law attorney with experience in these matters before a split actually occurs. We can advise you on how best to protect your property and your relationship with your children.