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common law marriage and health/life insurance denial


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#1 zfl1981

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 03:19 PM

My wife and I have been together for almost seven years. We have one child and another on the way. We have held ourselves out as married for three years and moved to Kansas (a common law recognizing state) a year ago. We file taxes jointly and my wife uses my last name. We have shared bank/investment accounts and a shared lease on our apartment.

Recently the insurance company my job uses turned down medical coverage on my wife stating that they do not extend coverage to individuals who did not get married in a ceremony or before a judge specifically. Is that legal?

They are now threatening to do the same for life insurance coverage; that is, not extending coverage to my wife.

To remedy we are planning to have a judge certify us but it's too late to get covered. Do we have a case?

It feels like marriage discrimination. We are technically married. A common law marriage is a valid and lawful marriage entirely separate from cohabitation. When I explained that to the insurance representative that's when they whipped out the "in front of judge or ceremony" malarky.

Please help.

#2 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:59 PM

You need to consult a local attorney.  It appears that KS has a statute that requires it only to recognize common law marriages entered into in that state or those entered into in another state that allows formation of a common law marriages.  If you tried to form a marriage at common law in a state that doesn't allow it, it doesn't automatically transfer when you moved to KS.  Speak with a local attorney. 



#3 adjusterjack

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:29 PM

The following legal opinion from the Social Security Administration gives you some case citations:

 

https://secure.ssa.g.../lnx/1505605019

 

I suggest you look up the full decision online or at a law library.

 

According to the opinion:

 

"A common-law marriage obligates the individuals to the same legal obligations and privileges as a more formal marriage"

 

Unfortunately, any person or entity likely has the right to tell you to "prove it" to their satisfaction before they provide those privileges.

 

Might be faster and cheaper (by avoiding the paying of large sums of money to an attorney) to just get yourselves married by a justice of the peace ASAP rather than go months without coverage while you try other legal means.

 

After all, it's your intention to be married so it seems self defeating not to get married.


Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#4 zfl1981

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 04:05 AM

I have in fact made inquiries to several local attorneys and am waiting to hear back.

 

The state we enacted our common law marriage is Kansas.

 

In the meantime my wife has had to apply for state assistance (she is pregnant with our second child) and will not be eligible with my job until January 2014 assuming we have a traditional ceremony or get a "certificate" from a judge. It seems clear that there is a vast misunderstanding of what common law marriage is. It is not cohabitation. That is a separate legal state. Common law marriage is marriage in every way except how it is initiated. If we wanted to separate and split our assets we would have to go to divorce court. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, no?

 

It seems a perverse situation when we have to apply for welfare because a company can discriminate between a marriage by action and a marriage by certificate.



#5 adjusterjack

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 06:43 AM

Common law marriage is marriage in every way except how it is initiated. If we wanted to separate and split our assets we would have to go to divorce court. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, no?

 

 

 

Then why would you not want a state issued marriage certificate?


Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#6 zfl1981

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 07:08 AM

Then why would you not want a state issued marriage certificate?

 

As a matter of belief I do not. As a practical matter I would rather my wife have health and life insurance than not. I do not want to get a state issued marriage certificate but it appears that is the only way to have coverage for my wife until I hear otherwise or until we capitulate come January 2014.



#7 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 09:08 AM

To learn more about this subject matter, you may visit the Family Law Center: Marriage Law and read Common Law Marriage as a good resource. If you need further clarification on your specific situation, you may consult with a local Kansas Family Law Lawyer.



#8 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 01:25 AM

 

Common law marriage is marriage in every way except how it is initiated...It seems a perverse situation when we have to apply for welfare because a company can discriminate between a marriage by action and a marriage by certificate.

 

You are correct that a common law marriage is the same as a formal marriage except for how the marriage is formed. But therein lies your problem — a common law marriage can't be proved by a government record like a formal marriage can. The insurer wants proof of the marriage, not just your claim to the marriage. You could try going to court for a declaratory judgment that you and your wife have formed a common law marriage. That judgment would provide the proof of the marriage and should satisfy the insurer. But that’s not going to be something that you accomplish instantly; court actions take time. It would be a good idea to have an attorney assist you with that, and that will cost you money, as well. You say that you object to the formal marriage, but not why you object to it. It may be that the court judgment would be just as objectionable as the formal marriage, in which case you have a difficult choice to make. Because one way or the other, you’ll likely need something official that states you are married to deal with situations like this. Like it or not, this is one of the downsides of common law marriages and is one reason why most states no longer allow formation of common law marriages.



#9 Fallen

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 08:36 AM

I'd pester state insurance commission, but first your plan administrator.  It's unclear how this came up as an issue with this insurer, because I don't know that most employees have to produce a marriage certificate to an insurance company to cover them.  Did other married workers have to do this?  Rhetorical.

 

I don't know that the insurance company is free to declare that you need to cough up a marriage certificate or a court acknowledgment that you're married, but it may be that you need to talk with a family law attorney who is intimately familiar with this topic. 

 

"We have held ourselves out as married for three years and moved to Kansas (a common law recognizing state) a year ago."

If you two agreed you were married to each other (that's a required element too) in another state where formation of common law marriages isn't allowed, it still wasn't a valid common law marriage until you did that in KS.  If you've been filing as married in terms of tax returns in a non-common law marriage-formation state, then I'd keep in mind that the IRS may simply assume you formed the marriage in a state that did allow its formation and hope that never comes up.


 


I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)





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