The Rights of a Putative Spouse
When an individual attempts to end their marriage, or tries to inherit from a spouse, it can come as shock to discover he or she was never legally married in the first place. Situations such as these can cause problems for an unwitting spouse, and he or she may suddenly feel abandoned and left without protection under the law. However, in Illinois, there may be hope if certain conditions are met.
Putative Spouse Under Illinois Law
In various cases, the saving grace under Illinois law is the recognition of the concept of a putative spouse. A putative spouse is a person who:
- Goes through a marriage ceremony; and
- Cohabits with another person to whom he or she is not legally married in the good faith belief that he or she was married to that person.
Putative spouse status is limited to the time of ignorance as to the true nature of the “marriage.” Once a spouse discovers he or she is not legally married, the status ends. Thus, a putative spouse cannot acquire any further rights entitled under the law. The failure of a marriage to be legal does not necessarily have to be intentional for a spouse to be a putative spouse. Additionally, a putative spouse is entitled to the same rights as a legal spouse. This means, for example, that after a putative spouse discovers that his or her marriage in not legal, he or she is entitled to receive maintenance and, if applicable in the case, a share of property.
A putative spouse would be entitled to any marital assets the couple acquired from the date of the marriage to the date of discovery of putative status. In the cases of bigamy where there is another legal spouse in the picture, or both a legal spouse and another putative spouse, a court would apportion property and maintenance to all three parties as appropriate. Also, the invalidity of a marriage does not affect any children born of the marriage. The children are recognized under law as the lawful children of both spouses.
Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney
If you want to divorce your spouse, it is advisable to contact an experienced and compassionate attorney to help guide you through the process. Contact the Illinois family law attorneys at MKFM Law to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Call 630-665-7300 today.