Those vague 'common-law marriages'

No need to buy these.

No need to buy these.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

The story of Kevin Gaugler, of East Providence, and his former-live in girlfriend, Angela Luis, reported in a July 1 Providence Journal story by Katie Mulvaney headlined “A Cautionary Tale: Long relationship is not a marriage,’’ is a cautionary tale about legal obligations and the lack thereof and the rootlessness of American life.

The five-year-long Gaugler-Luis case (the lawyers must have prospered!) involves Ms. Luis’s assertion that she and Mr. Gaugler were in a common-law marriage.  But the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in May that his 23-year relationship with Ms. Luis was not a common-law marriage. As  Ms. Mulvaney  noted: “Rhode Island is one of several states that leave it to the courts to determine whether a long-term relationship constitutes a common-law marriage.’’

Ms. Luis had big economic reasons for wanting the relationship to be declared a (kind of) marriage. It would have given her half the marital assets after they split up, including half the proceeds from selling a house that he had bought as well as his retirement accounts and insurance policy.

Complicating things were that he had helped raise Ms. Luis’s son as his own.

There’s enough disorder in American life. “Common law marriages’’ should be abolished and what we used to call “illegitimacy’’ (which is closely correlated with poverty) discouraged.  The states ought to encourage individuals to understand and take on the legal obligations of regular marriage, especially regarding children and property.