In recent news, Fox 25 reports that unmarried couples may soon be allowed to legally live together in Florida. A measure to get rid of a law that’s been on the books since 1868 making it illegal for unmarried men and women to cohabit is pending before the Florida State Senate.
Apparently, Florida, along with only 2 other states in the U.S. (Michigan and Mississippi), makes cohabitation between a man and woman a misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Eleanor Sobel, is quoted by Fox 25 as saying that “times have changed,” and “it’s time for us to have less government, less intrusion and repeal this archaic bill…”
Living Together Not Prohibited in Massachusetts
More and more couples, both hetero and same sex, are living together in the Commonwealth. According to 2010 census data, the number of unmarried partners living in the same home in Massachusetts increased by over 35%. (Source: Somerville Journal, D. Riley, May 2011). This was a greater increase than in any other category.
Cohabiting Couples Don’t Have The Same Rights As Married Couples
Fortunately, it isn’t against the law for couples to live together or cohabit in Massachusetts. Yet, despite this fact, people who are living together should know that Massachusetts does not recognize common law marriage. Since the state doesn’t recognize common law marriage, cohabiting couples simply don’t have the same rights and protections that married couples do.
For example, if the partners in a cohabiting relationship break up, there is no automatic right to ongoing support (called palimony in some states) from one partner to the other. This is because when you’re living together there are no rules similar to divorce laws that will determine how property and assets that you’ve acquired should be divided up.
Another example is when one partner in a cohabiting relationship suddenly dies. Since there’s no common law marriage in Massachusetts, the surviving partner is not legally entitled to anything owned by the other partner unless there’s been a last will and testament or other estate planning done.
You Can Protect Your Rights When You’re Living With Someone Else
These are just two examples of how cohabiting partners don’t have the same rights as married partners do in Massachusetts. There are many more examples that exist.
The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself against this lack of rights.
If you’re living with someone in Massachusetts and want to learn more about how to protect yourself and your rights take the first step now.