Welcome back. In the previous article we looked at the first two alternatives available to couples who choose not to get married. Sometimes this is because there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for the expense and stress of a wedding. Other times it’s because current divorce stats are so disheartening and people want to avoid the heartbreak.
Moving on we are going to wrap up this list with the last two marriage alternatives that people in Michigan consider. Although, please remember that just because people here in the Mitten state choose these options, doesn’t mean that they are legally recognized as being equivalent to marriage.
Civil unions, also known as civil partnerships or registered partnerships, are a form of marriage alternative that is recognized in certain states as a legal form of partnership. It is viewed as a relationship similar to marriage, but is often not legally recognized as such. It is also not recognized by religious institutions as being a valid marriage alternative.
Initially, civil unions were created by the state of Vermont as an alternative to marriage for LGBT couples. For years it was used by many same-sex couples as the closest thing they could get to being married. With the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, this is no longer a necessary alternative.
While several states recognize civil unions as a viable alternative to marriage, federal law does not. It doesn’t afford a civil union couple the same rights as a married couple would enjoy. Benefits like social security benefits, jointly filed federal tax returns, spousal benefits, federal veterans’ spousal benefits, and immigration rights given to married couples are all denied to couples in civil unions.
Michigan also does not recognize civil unions, either for same-sex couples or for couples of differing genders. Under Michigan law, if a Michigan-based couple wishes to be legally recognized as a couple, they will need to get legally married.
Cohabitation is when two people, engaged in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship, choose to live together. Sometimes this period of time spent living together is brief. Sometimes it is extended. Sometimes it is permanent.
While cohabitation is becoming more and more common, and increasingly socially acceptable, it is not the same as a marriage in the eyes of the court. Cohabitation, much like domestic partnership and common law marriage in Michigan, does not confer any of the same rights and protections afforded by legal marriage. People who choose to cohabit in Michigan cannot file their taxes together as a couple. This means that they are not eligible for any marital deductions. Nor can they be covered by each other’s health insurance benefits. As Brandy Thompson, a family law attorney, reminds us, “While the emotional ties may be similar to that of a marriage, if you choose a ‘marriage alternative,’ the likely result is that the State will treat your relationship similar to that of roommates.”
Michigan marital law is rather complex and very interesting. We hope that this little break down has provided you with some useful information. Maybe even a few additional options that you didn’t know about beforehand. After all, knowledge is power. However, if you need help with a family law issue, like divorce, custody, parenting time or even personal protection orders, please call The Kronzek Firm at 517 886 1000. We are here to help you.