With divorce rates continuing to climb, people in committed long-term relationships may shy away from conventional legal marriages for any number of reasons. While people may feel this is their right, the legal status of unmarried people who live together in Florida is far from clear, which can cause huge problems during major life events such as deaths, healthcare crises and breakups.
Common law marriage not recognized
Unlike a number of other states, Florida has explicitly chosen not to embrace a doctrine called common law marriage under which people who live together for specified durations of time are treated as if they had married officially. In states that recognize common law marriages, those who are married under common law enjoy various rights and benefits, not least of all the legal recognition of their union for purposes of property distribution after death, support payments after breakups and standing in child custody matters. Florida couples have no claim to any of these rights under common law marriage.
In many counties and municipalities in Florida, domestic partnership registries have been instituted through which unmarried couples can officially record their union. Such registries are designed to provide rights such as:
- Visiting partners in hospitals, jails and mental institutions
- Emergency notification
- Disposal of remains in the event of death
The legal issues that face married and unmarried couples are frequently complex and are best addressed at the outset of any relationship by knowledgeable family law attorneys.