Woman left without benefits after common-law husband dies - WNEM TV 5

Woman left without benefits after common-law husband dies

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Some people dream of having the perfect wedding and spending their life with the person they love. Others want to skip the first step.

In Michigan it could cause problems down the road.

The Great Lakes State does not recognize common-law marriage and that can leave a big impact on couples living together who have never actually tied the not. It's an issue one Mid-Michigan family is dealing with.

"Why do we have to keep being punished because we were a family and decided to stay together to raise our children," said Yolanda Seay.

Seay and her partner were together for more than 25 years. Now she and the couple's two kids, who are now adults, may be missing out on benefits like social security and veteran's benefits.

The man she considered to be like a husband died last fall.

"[I've] been with him for 26 years. People that have been married only 10 years get all the benefits from their husbands and I feel it's unfair that I and my children don't benefit off of nothing," Seay said.

The couple had a common-law marriage. That's when a couple lives together and presents themselves as husband and wife, but they never go through a formal ceremony or get a marriage license.

Common-law marriages are recognized in nine states and the District of Columbia, but Michigan is not one of those states.

Experts admit it can be difficult, if not impossible to claim benefits when opting for a common-law marriage.

Seay said she just wants her relationship recognized like everyone else's.

"Maybe one person will hear me and make a difference and it don't have to be for me and my babies. But it can be for future things so another family don't have to suffer and go through what I had to go through," she said.

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