Marriage Alternatives – What Are Your Options? (Part One)

Want to be together but not get married? We look at your options…


There are a number of reasons for why people choose not to get married. Everything from “we just don’t see the point, it won’t change anything”, to “that’s a level of commitment that we’re just not ready for yet.” For some, it’s the fear of divorce that keeps them from saying ‘I do’. Regardless of the reasons, however, there are a number of alternatives available to those who choose not to tie the knot, as it were. Here are a few to consider…


Domestic Partnership

A domestic partnership is commonly recognized as a legal relationship between two people. It is similar to a traditional marriage in that the two people in a domestic partnership live together and share a domestic life. However, they are neither legally married in the eyes of the state, nor in a legally recognized civil union.


There are some states that recognize a domestic partnership as being almost a legal equivalent to marriage. Other states recognize it only as a union with some, but not as many, relationship rights as a legal marriage. The state of Michigan, however, only recognizes a domestic partnership as being another form of cohabitation.


Here in the Mitten, a couple who chooses to live together as if they were married is, in the eyes of the state, doing exactly that. This living arrangement doesn’t afford them any particular rights, and doesn’t allow them any of the benefits that a marriage would provide.


Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage, much like a Domestic Partnership, is a relationship similar to a marriage, but without the legally binding contract. There are a few places in the United States that recognize Common Law marriage as a valid and legally binding alternative to marriage. However, Michigan is not one of them.


Common law marriage, which is also called marriage by habit or informal marriage, is based on the idea that a couple can choose to enter into a binding partnership agreement, but are not required to get legally married in a church or before a justice of the peace.


Currently there are only eight states out of fifty that will recognize common law marriage as a legal marriage alternative. However, all states, regardless of their own laws on common law marriage, will legally recognize a common law marriage that was made binding via a valid legal contract in another state. In Michigan, the court might consider a common law marriage binding, even if the relationship began in a state that also does not recognize common law marriage, if the couple signed power of attorney documents before cohabiting.


Join us next time for the second installment in this two part series on marriage alternatives. You may learn a thing or two about Michigan marital law. Until then, if you are planning to tie the knot and need help figuring out your prenuptial agreement, or want to escape that knot your tied some time ago, come and talk to our skilled family lawyers. We are here to help you.