September 21, 2019

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Wrongful Death Claims for the Common Law Spouse in Minnesota

There is so much confusion about common law marriage, and so much misinformation passed around by word-of-mouth. A common-law marriage confers all the same rights and responsibilities as formal or ceremonial marriage. It is not a fast and loose grey area of semi-commitment, where you can choose the marriage rights you want to use and then walk away from the relationship whenever you want, as unceremoniously as you entered it. But the biggest misconception is that common-law marriage is actually common. It’s not. You cannot enter into a common-law marriage in most states. You cannot form a common-law marriage in Minnesota.

Did You Have a Legally Binding Common-law Marriage?

To determine if you had a valid common-law marriage you need to look at a few things.

Did you and your late partner live in a state where common-law marriage can be formed? Very few states allow it. Some states that no longer allow it used to, and common-law marriages that were formed in those states before the practice was banned are still valid.

If you can say yes to the first question, you still need to determine if you formed a valid common-law marriage according to the laws in that state. It’s not something that just happens because you live together for a certain amount of time. Although it is “informal” and you don’t get a piece of paper, it’s not a situation where each person or couple just decides what constitutes a marriage. Each state that allows it has different rules. Basic elements that apply in all the states that allow it are:

  • You both considered yourself married
  • You represented yourselves as married to friends, family and the public
  • You were legally able to get married, as in old enough and not married to someone else

Why It Matters in Minnesota Wrongful Death Claims

In Minnesota, you must be the surviving spouse or next of kin to the decedent in order to receive wrongful death compensation. If you had a valid common-law marriage, you’re the surviving spouse. If not, you are not provided for under Minnesota wrongful death law.

To learn more about wrongful death claims and your rights, please contact an experienced Minnesota wrongful death attorney right away.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.