Annie’s Mailbox: State laws may confuse break-up
Dear Annie: I have been with “John” for more than 10 years. We have children together. I have reached the point in my life that I wish to be married. I never wanted to be a girlfriend forever, and he knew this from the beginning.
John says stupid things like, “If you did such-and-such, then I’d marry you.” I don’t believe marriage is about how much I can do for him. It’s about loving each other enough to commit. I love John, but he is unwilling to take that step, so I have told him if we are not married by next summer, he has to move out and let me get on with my life. I’m not trying to force him to the altar. It’s simply that if a legal commitment isn’t in the cards, I need to plan my future without him.
The problem is, John tells me he will not leave. I don’t want things to get nasty by involving the authorities, but I want more out of my life than he does. Over the past few months, I have made myself completely miserable just thinking about all of this. Am I being unreasonable? Am I putting myself and my needs first by demanding he make a choice? – Dazed and Confused
Dear Dazed: No. John’s needs have come first for the past 10 years. But aside from that, you already may have a legal commitment in place. When a couple lives together as long as you have, it is recognized in many states as a common-law marriage. So, although you haven’t had a ceremony, you may, in fact, be legally tied.
You also have children, and a separation will entail custody, visitation and child support arrangements, so you might consider counseling before disentangling yourself. Even something as simple as tossing him out of the house becomes a legal matter. Check the laws in your state regarding common-law marriage, and if necessary, get the assistance of an attorney.