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Appeals court says commitment ceremony is not a marriage

A woman and her new partner held a commitment ceremony. Her ex-husband argues that's a marriage, and should relieve him of spousal support.

The state Court of Appeals says a commitment ceremony does not equal a marriage in Michigan.

An ex-husband is challenging a lower court ruling. He says his former wife’s commitment ceremony with her partner relieves him of an expensive spousal support obligation.

The ex-wife says he still owes the money. The appeals court agrees, ruling he has to continue paying the agreed-upon spousal support arrangement.

Family law attorney Robert Cassar says the decision sets a clear standard on who is entitled to marriage rights in Michigan.

“You have to get a license from the state of Michigan to get married. If you don’t do those things, you’re not married.”

The appeals court decision reverses a lower court’s decision.

Kevin Gentry is the ex-wife’s attorney. Gentry says the terms of the divorce were carefully negotiated. He says the opinion means the law is clear: “To get married in Michigan, you’ve got to get a license, you’ve got to have witnesses. It’s a legal status, and my client didn’t have that legal status.”

Michigan law does not recognize common law marriages. The ex-husband could appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

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