Iowa is one of the minority of states that recognizes the right of people to get married through common law provisions. A couple married in common law is legally married and has the same rights and obligations as any other married couple, including the right to partake in a partner's health insurance, if the policy calls for it. Talk to an Iowa attorney if you need legal advice about common law marriage.
Common Law Requirements
The phrase "common law marriage" is an often misunderstood and misused phrase people use to describe a relationship. While anyone can choose to cohabit with another person, doing so for a specific period of time is not enough to become married through common law. Iowa requires that a couple must intend to be married, must live together continuously and must hold themselves out to the public as a married couple.
What constitutes proof of marriage for common-law couples is often a concern when it comes to seeking health care insurance benefits. Health care policies often require that the employees prove that they are married, though what constitutes valid proof is often as simple as showing shared finances, bills with the couple's married names on them or perhaps signing an affidavit that the couple is married. Common law couples, as long as they can provide similar proof, should be able to prove their relationship in the same manner.
Health Care Policies
A health insurance policy may or may not extend insurance benefits to a person's spouse. The company that offers the insurance program and the terms of the health insurance determine whether or not your spouse is covered. While employers generally offer health care to married couples when one partner is employed, the method through which you have to prove marriage is largely dependent on the individual plan and employer.
Same Sex Couples
As of January 2011, Iowa is one of a handful of states that recognize same-sex marriages. However, it is not clear whether or not Iowa recognizes same-sex common law marriages. In theory, a same-sex couple in Iowa has the same right to become married through common law as any other couple. Complicating this situation, however, is the status of same-sex marriages and health insurance policies. The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, law does not prevent an employer from giving health insurance benefits to same-sex couples, though it also does not require them to do so either.
- Iowa State; Common Law Marriage in Iowa -- It's More Than Just "Shackin Up"; Erin C. Herbold; June 1, 2009
- Insure; Health Insurance Benefits for Domestic Partners; July 14, 2010
- FindLaw; In Re: Estate of David S. Schenck; Sievers Irwin, et al.; May 27, 1997
- "Omaha World-Herald"; Even in Iowa, Married Gays are Still Unequal in Work Benefits; Elizabeth Ahlin; June 30, 2009
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.