Legal Corner: If you have been living with someone since 2005, are you legally married in Louisiana?

Legal Corner: If you have been living with someone since 2005, are you legally married in Louisiana?

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Question: If you have been living with someone since 2005, are you legally married in Louisiana?

What is known as a "common law" marriage is not recognized in Louisiana. Here, according to CC Art. 86, marriage is defined as a legal relationship between a man and a woman that is created by CIVIL CONTRACT. The relationship and the contract are subject to special rules prescribed by law. CC Art. 87 states that the requirements for the contract of marriage are the absence of legal impediment, a marriage ceremony and the free consent of the parties to take each other as husband and wife, expressed at the ceremony. CC Articles 88 and 90 list the impediments to a marriage. Common law marriages in Louisiana are not recognized by judges or the court system; therefore, if you move from another state in which this arrangement is valid, you may need to consider the possibility of getting formally married. Louisiana law on common marriage is not recognized for many reasons. States which allow for this arrangement require several conditions from people in this kind of relationship. Spouses who are in this kind of relationship must both present themselves to other people on a regular basis as husband and wife. However, doing so will still not lead to the validity of common law marriages in Louisiana being recognized. Both spouses must be able to legally marry, meaning they are both of age, in good mental condition and not too closely related. However, meeting all of these requirements still not allow for a common law marriage in Louisiana to be recognized. Spouses who are involved in this kind of benefit are allowed all the same benefits as those who have a formal marriage certificate, such as filing joint tax returns. However, couples who wish to enter into common law marriages in Louisiana to take advantage of such rights will not be able to. It is important to note that if you have entered into this kind of relationship in another state, it may be possible to preserve your status if you move. While common law marriage in Louisiana is not an option for those who are already residents, the court system will generally recognize such an agreement if it has already been initiated in another state. Couples who move to the state and then wish to obtain a divorce may have some difficulty establishing the validity of their relationship. Since common law marriages in Louisiana will only be recognized if they were established in another state, a spouse who seeks alimony payments or couples who have minor children will need to establish the prior recognition of their status. This frequently will require calling in witnesses who can testify that both husband and wife presented themselves as such. Arranging transportation for these witnesses to confirm common law marriages in Louisiana will add to the expense of divorce proceedings. Another concern you may have if involved in this kind of relationship involves the handling of your assets after your death. Since common law marriage in Louisiana is not recognized, your property will not be automatically be inherited by a spouse. To ensure that your wishes regarding inheritances are respected, it is best to draft a will detailing how you wish for your assets to be divided. This way, even though spouses may have difficulty establishing their rights to inherit as members of common law marriages in Louisiana, they will still receive their fair share of your estate without having to establish the relationship in probate court.

Question: Is there anything I can do about the government taking $695 from me when I filed my taxes for not having health insurance last year. I haven't been to a doctor or hospital for any reason in over 5 years; therefore, don't understand how they can take money from me for something I didn't need. Is there any legal leg to stand on to get my money back?

You may qualify for an exemption. This online interview will help you determine if you're eligible for a coverage exemption or if you're required to make an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. If you have an exemption application pending from the marketplace, you should wait until you receive either the denial or approval before continuing. If your application is pending and you need to file your federal tax return, see the instructions for Form 8965. If you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you must pay a fee called the individual shared responsibility payment. (The fee is sometimes called the "penalty," "fine," or "individual mandate.") You owe the fee for any month you, your spouse, or your tax dependents don't have qualifying health coverage (sometimes called "minimum essential coverage"). See all insurance types that qualify. You pay the fee when you file your federal tax return for the year you don't have coverage. In some cases, you may qualify for a health coverage exemption from the requirement to have insurance. If you qualify, you won't have to pay the fee. Learn about health coverage exemptions here. The fee is calculated 2 different ways – as a percentage of your household income, and per person. You'll pay whichever is higher.

Disclaimer: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC TV.

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