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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.  :)


#10 nineteen77momma

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Posted 29 October 2014 - 11:48 AM

To whom ever says..."why not just get a license?"  Here is MY reply.

I just confirmed my Common Law Marriage for my employer.  Why didn't I get a license?  I have FOUR kids & the license is $85.50 (I think).  My husband & I are saving money so we can have a beautiful wedding & honeymoon.  With four kids, we can not crap money.  Plus, we want our family there. 

I was under the impression that common law was LEGAL in Kansas but my employer is giving me a hard time.  I signed their paper, as did my husband, stating that we agree we are MARRIED and that we have to get a LEGAL divorce if we wish to separate.  We signed this form in front of a notary. 

My husband will be covered but NOT until January 2015.

Why? 

I DON'T KNOW.

If we had a certificate, they would have added him now. 
I AM going to fight my employer to get him on the insurance. 

I can't wait until we have our BIG DAY, but for now, we just want health coverage. 

It's so rediculous to have us get something notorized only to tell us we have to wait.

Then I asked them to change my name.  Would they?  Nope.  Not until I provide a social security card.  Which I WILL have next week :) 

Common Law.... Saves money & is legal but is a PAIN IN THE WATOOSIE!

 



#11 Fallen

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Posted 29 October 2014 - 01:16 PM

nineteen, it's not terribly useful to tack on comments to a year-plus-old thread.

Be that as it may, when you refer to wanting a "beautiful wedding and honeymoon" as compared to a marriage license cost, that doesn't compute. You can be legally married at the courthouse and still later have another wedding ceremony. People do it all the time.

 

"Why? I DON'T KNOW."

Ask your benefits administrator to explain, in writing.  There may be a loophole in that this isn't a change in circumstances (that you didn't just recently agree that you are married to each other), and as such it needs to wait until the new plan period is in effect.

 

"I AM going to fight my employer to get him on the insurance."

You mean before January 2015, I presume.  Ultimately, short of a court order, it may be a problem forcing them to do this.

 

"It's so rediculous to have us get something notorized only to tell us we have to wait."

You don't say as of when you were employed with this place and whether you've been fighting since employment, but I'd say four kids later (assuming any or all are you and your husband's), I'm not sure whether it's worth fighting about something that could be addressed by $85.50.


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.  :)


#12 ElleMD

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Posted Yesterday, 08:11 AM

By law there are only certain times you can add a dependent, including a spouse to your coverage. If you did not have a qualifying event, then you may have to wait until open enrollment to add him which it sounds like you re doing now. Those changes are for the new plan year and Jan.1 is a common one. Yes, you must have proof he counts as a legal dependent. IRS rules, not your employer's or insurers. Getting legally married would be one of those qualifying events which would allow you to add him outside OE. That is why it is different. It would be no different than any other qualifying event or dependent. It has nothing to do with not recognizing CL marriage.

 

Employers can get in hot water if they are issuing paychecks under a name other than the one on your Soc. Security card. That is why they will only change the name in the system after they have proof that it is changed with Social Security. This is not at all unusual and throwing a fit over it is just silly as 99% of employers would require the same.






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