Don’t assume that marriage and family law are same in each state

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Friday, July 17, 2015.

Anyone who has followed the publicity surrounding the same-sex marriage debate have probably heard that, until the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, it was legal in some states but not in others. In fact, if a same-sex couple was married in a state where their marriage was legal and then moved to a state that had not yet legalized same-sex marriage, they were not considered legally married in the new state of residence.

But having marital rights that vary from state-to-state is actually nothing new. Each state has its own laws that regulate the requirements for a legal marriage, as well as specific divorce laws. If you have lived in more than one state during your marriage, you can’t assume that marriage and divorce law is the same in each.

For example, some states recognize common law marriage. Common law marriage is usually defined as a relationship between two people who have held themselves out as a married couple to others for some required period of time under state law, even though they have never had a marriage ceremony or been issued a marriage license. If a couple whose common law marriage has been recognized in another state moves to Missouri, their rights as a married couple may no longer exist because Missouri does not recognize common law marriages.

The age of consent to be married also varies from state-to-state.  Perhaps a young, starry-eyed couple living in another state where the age of consent is 16 travels to Missouri to live, expecting to get married here. Unfortunately, their dreams of happily ever after would have to wait a year – the age of consent in Missouri is 17.

If you have moved to Missouri and have questions about marriage or divorce laws or other family law issues in the state, you should contact an attorney with experience in Missouri family law. Don’t assume that your rights and obligations are the same as they were in another state.

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