The state of Minnesota has not recognized common-law marriage since the Legislature abolished it in 1941. In fact, while it used to be commonly allowed, today only eight states recognize common-law marriage.
A common-law marriage is one in which the couple never legally weds, but the couple live as if they had. Whether you have a formalized marriage or not can make a big difference if one “spouse” ever wants out of the relationship. People in a traditional marriage can get a divorce; those in a marriage not recognized by the state may have a hard time getting the court’s help with property division, child support and so on.
The son of minority owners of the Minnesota Vikings is trying to convince the court in New Jersey that he and his wife of more than 20 years were never technically married, and thus his wife cannot divorce him. He is citing a requirement that a couple obtain a marriage license before going through the ceremony.
The couple had their marriage ceremony in the office of a rabbi in Dec. 5, 1993. According to the husband, they did not get the license until 16 days later. This makes his marriage invalid, his attorneys are arguing in court filings ask the judge to dismiss the wife’s divorce petition.
In response, the wife filed several documents establishing that their life over the last 20 years is virtually indistinguishable from legally married couples. She converted to Judaism and quit her job for him, she says. They had joint bank accounts, filed tax returns jointly, bought real estate together and otherwise held themselves out to the world as husband and wife, she contends.
She also provided an anniversary card, in which the husband wrote, “After 20 years I’d marry you all over again.”
The husband’s family owns a stake in the Vikings, and reportedly earned more than $6.6 million in 2012. It appears that there are sizable assets at stake, making the court’s determination whether or not it can grant a divorce all the more compelling.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Sons of Minnesota Vikings Part-Owner Says He Wasn’t Legally Married to His Wife,” Yoni Bashan and Heather Haddon, Sept. 18, 2014