The Myth of a Civil Marriage

04.11.2017 | Lawyer

The definition of “civil marriage” absolutely does not correspond to the meaning that is put into it.

In the last few decades, an increasing number of Ukrainian couples prefer to live together without going through the relevant registration in state bodies. Such relationships are often called “civil marriage” in the people.

The definition of “civil marriage” does not correspond to the meaning that such couples put into these words. More importantly, despite the widespread misconception, it is extremely difficult to prove the fact of living together, therefore, in case of contradictions, the parties (or, more often, one of the parties) have extremely modest chances to defend their rights in court.

So, what is a civil marriage? This concept was formed as an alternative to church marriage and means a marriage union, issued in public authorities without the participation of the church. That is, paradoxically, the notion of “civil marriage” means exactly what some couples seek to avoid – the registry office, Mendelssohn’s march and the notorious stamp in the passport.

Terminologically much more correct definition of such relations is cohabitation or unregistered marriage.

Family couples who have entered into a legal marriage are not immune from contradictions, which, unfortunately, often lead to the disintegration of the family. Persons who are in an unregistered marriage, this applies even more.

After all, if such a couple terminates cohabitation for one reason or another (including the death of one of the partners), the mechanisms envisaged by law for the sharing of jointly acquired property, inheritance, and the right to raise children are virtually non-existent.

Almost the only document regulating the rights of cohabitants is the Family Code of Ukraine, Article 74 of which states that the property of a man and a woman who live in the same family but is not married belongs to them on the right of joint ownership (that is, 50% by 50%).

To achieve the realization of the right to its share of property, it is necessary to provide evidence of coexistence to the court or to involve witnesses. It is not easy to get such evidence in practice. If cohabitants have unequal links and financial opportunities, then often it is simply impossible.

The question arises: is there a way out of the situation that allows to regulate property and non-property relations, while not formally marrying? The Family Code of Ukraine provides an opportunity to conclude an agreement on the settlement of family relations. This agreement can also regulate property relations (the procedure for dividing property, payment of alimony), and certain rules of conduct in the family, as well as provide for liability for non-compliance with this agreement.

Thus, the conclusion of an agreement on the settlement of family relations allows not only to remove all the problematic issues in advance in the event of the disintegration of an unregistered marriage, but also to anticipate and prevent in advance the differences that may arise during cohabitation.

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