Issue: The case of Molly and Shane submits the question whether the New York Surrogate court must recognize their common-law marriage, established in Michigan twelve years ago, and what should be the consequences after that marriage is ended.
Rule: The Rule that has to be applied to this case is the text grounded in Article IV, Section I of the United State Constitution, known as “Full Faith and Credit Clause”.
Application: Molly and Shane lived together for twelve years in Lansing, Michigan. During that period Molly and Shane referred to each other as “my husband” and “my wife”. They opened joint bank accounts; put both their names on the lease of the apartment they lived in together, and their car. They performed all that, nevertheless they formally never married. They moved to Syracuse, New York at the end of that twelve year period. Three weeks later, unfortunately Molly was knocked down by a truck and killed. No one of them had a Will.
Shane referred to the Surrogate Court in New York, which jurisdiction allows all the questions about the common law marriages, their validity, and consequences following the end of such marriages, to be resolved. His petition was to be treated as Molly’s husband for purposes of dividing her estate and to be established as Administrator of her estate. Molly’s family contradicted that they should inherit all of Molly’s property (which was not jointly possessed with him) since they were not legally married. Shane did not agree and argued that they were common law family because of the way they lived for twelve years in Lansing, Michigan.
The notion of common law marriage has been recognized in the United States for many years and means that two parties live together and create a valid marital relationship without performing the legal marriage ceremony according to the statutory law of the specific state requirement of the particular state. The State Statute of Michigan did not differ in any particular from those of other states which recognize the common law marriage. It does not declare marriages invalid since they were not being “entered into the presence of a minister or magistrate” (Meister v. Moore, 96 U. S. 76 (1877). The State law in Michigan does not deny marriages which are good at common law. It is assumed that the State of Michigan recognizes the common law marriage. Here is the place to mention that the common law marriage does not mean that the parties only live together. They need to meet almost all requirements that are available to the legal marriage such as the necessary age of the parties, joint bank accounts, common living place, car, etc. Shane and Molly fulfilled most of the requirements.
The New York state does not recognize the common law marriage but here comes in force the rule, established in Article IV, Section I of the United State Constitution, known as the “ Full Faith and Credit Clause” that promulgates;
“Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.” (Article IV, Section I of the U. S. Constitution).
Conclusion: Following the above discussed arguments, it may be concluded that the cohabitation of Shane and Molly for twelve years in Lansing, Michigan, meets all requirements for common law marriage and it is considered as such. According to the “Faith and Credit Clause” (United States Constitution, Article IV, Section I) it has to be recognized by the New York state with all consequences, resulting from that.
Meister v. Moore 96 U. S. 76 (1877), Justia, U. S. Supreme Court Center, vol. 96, Web. Retrieved 2015 from www.supreme,justia.com/cases/federal/us/96/76
United States Const. Art. IV, Sec. I, Print