– from Susan O. in Hales Corners, WI

Question Details:

My boyfriend and I have been living together for almost 10 years, and things have started going badly. I have a son from a previous relationship who has also been living with us. When I told my boyfriend that I was thinking about moving out, he threatened to sue for custody of my child since we are in a common law marriage. Can he do that?

Family Law Attorney Response:

First off, there are no common law marriages in Wisconsin.

Some states have laws regarding the division of property in long-standing relationships, but Wisconsin is not one of them. The length of time you have been living together is irrelevant — common law marriage is a false, yet persistent, myth.

What's more, assuming your current boyfriend is not the biological or adoptive father of your child, he does not have any parental rights.

The law does not provide cohabiting partners with any sort of special custodial powers. The law is designed to protect your rights as a legal parent and the best interests of your child.

It sounds as though you've been misinformed, and I suspect there is more to this story. You need a family law attorney who can give you honest, accurate information — and above all — someone you can trust.

Lawyer Jeff Hughes from Sterling Law Offices, S.C.
Jeff Hughes, J.D.

Managing Partner

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