What Happens If I Am Served With Divorce Papers By My Ex-Boyfriend or Girlfriend: The Case of Common Law Marriage In D.C.

You recently went through a break-up with your longtime girlfriend or boyfriend. They have permanently moved out of the home or apartment that you shared together. Then, a few weeks later, you receive a knock at the door only to be served with divorce papers – from your ex. You’re probably wondering what is going on – the two of you were never married!

If you think this is an absurd or impossible situation, it isn’t – at least not if you live in Washington, D.C. Washington D.C. has a  common law marriage, and is one of only nine (9) jurisdictions/states to recognize it.

A common law marriage does not require a ceremony, marriage licenses or witnesses. In order to have a common law marriage, a couple must intend to be married and must live together for a significant period of time. See Bansda v. Wheeler, 995 A.2d 189, 198 (2010); Coates v. Watts, 622 A.2d 25, 27 (19930. If these two (2) steps are completed, then the couple will be considered legally married and subject to the District of Columbia divorce laws.

Historically, common law marriages existed in the event of death, the surviving partner could receive benefits and any children the couple had, could inherit from the deceased parent(s). But today, common law marriage can be abused by ex-lovers who would otherwise have no rights or obligations from/to their ex. Today more and more couples living together, but do not becoming legally married. In the District of Columbia, it is no surprise that lawsuits alleging common law marriage is on the rise.

So, what do you do when you have been served with divorce papers by your ex-partner? Contact an experienced family law attorney immediately! Your lawyer can determine whether you actually entered into a common law marriage under the law.

If you are currently cohabitating with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but want to ensure that you are not, in fact, establishing a common law marriage, your attorney can also help you draft a solid cohabitation agreement clarifying your non-marital status. The agreement can also include provisions on how to distribute any assets co-owned or accumulated by you and your partner in the event of a break-up.

If you have been served with divorce papers by an ex-partner, you should speak with a qualified family law attorney at the DiPietro Family Law Group. Our attorneys can review the facts of your specific situation and will fight for your rights and the outcome you desire. Call us today to schedule a consultation at (703) 370-5555 or visit us online.

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