Just living together does not create a common law marriage

Q. My daughter had a baby and is living with the baby’s father. Are they married? He says they are not. What rights does she have if he leaves? He is taking care of her and the baby but is threatening to leave her.

A. Under the law, if he is the father of the child, she has the right to receive support for the child. She is entitled to child support regardless of whether they are married.

You seem to believe, however, that because they are living together with a child that they are married. That is not the law. For them to have a common law marriage based on living together, they must agree to be married and hold themselves out as married. If they are just “living together” and have not agreed to be married or held themselves out as married, they are not married.

Q. I recently moved into a new apartment. The apartment pays a referral fee. I told them my friend referred me. When I told my friend he was going to get the money, he agreed to split it with me. Now he refuses to share. Can I take him to justice court?

A. In my opinion, you do not have any basis for a lawsuit. Your friend promised to give you a gift. He simply agreed to share his money with you. Such promises are not enforceable.

As a general rule, for a promise to be enforceable it must be a contract. To be a contract, the promise must have what the law calls “consideration.” This means that there must be something given in exchange for the promise. For example, a promise to pay for something you will receive, or in exchange for another person’s promise to do something, is an enforceable contract. If your fried had said, “If you tell them I referred you, I will split the money with you,” his promise would be enforceable. He asked for something in return for his promise. In this case, his promise to share money was not given in exchange for any action on your part; in my opinion, this is an unenforceable promise to make a gift.

Q. I am owed $16,000 from an unpaid loan. I know the limit in justice court is $10,000. Can I just sue for $10,000 so I can file in justice court?

A. As you know, the limit in justice court is $10,000. The limit, however, is based on the amount of your dispute, not how much you request. You cannot ask for less than you are actually owed to get within the court’s jurisdiction.

Q. My employer requires a doctor’s note, or our paid sick day will be credited as a vacation day. Usually when I am sick, a trip to the doctor is not necessary. I now have to go to the doctor and incur these costs when it really isn’t necessary. Is this legal?

A. Basically, as far as the law is concerned, your employer establishes the rules, and you have to follow them. There is no requirement your employer give you paid sick days or vacation days. If the employer gives you these days, it has the right to establish the requirements for eligibility.

Q. I let a friend borrow the extra key to my apartment and he lost it. Can I require my landlord to change my locks? I had my apartment number on the key chain.

A. Under the law, a landlord has an obligation to change the locks at his expense when a new tenant moves in. After that time, the landlord must change the locks whenever the tenant requests, as often as the tenant wants. The tenant, however, must pay the costs of installing the new locks. In other words, you can require your landlord to change your locks; however, you must pay the costs.


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