Common law marriage in Iowa and health insurance

By | November 27, 2015
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Common law marriage in Iowa and health insurance –  IA residents will usually declare common law marriages in Iowa if they do not want a traditional wedding ceremony but still want the tax benefits of a legal marriage.

Health Insurance Laws for Common Law Marriage in Iowa

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.

Under Iowa law, there are 2 ways for two people to be legally married

Apply for a marriage license, have a ceremony with a magistrate, judge, or clergy and the second way is Marriage by common law.

Common law marriage in Iowa and health insurance

What are the requirements of Common Law ?

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 ?

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.

Common law marriage in Iowa and health insurance

What about dependents ?

Children of a common law spouse or domestic partner are eligible if they meet the definition of an eligible dependent. An eligible, dependent child can be your or your partner’s natural child; a legally adopted child or a child placed with you for adoption; or a child for whom you have a legal obligation to provide health insurance. Dependent children must meet the following requirements:

  1. The child is not married and either under the age of 25 and resides in the state of Iowa or a full-time student; or
  2. The child is totally and permanently disabled, either physically or mentally. If this is the case, the disability must have existed before the child was age 25, and the dependent must have had continuous health care coverage with the carrier of choice since, on, or before that birthday.

Check your health plan

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.

Common law marriage in Iowa and health insurance

What about 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.

Talk to an Iowa attorney if you need legal advice about common law marriage.



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