The Woodward News

Local News

April 29, 2014

Law Day activities set for May 1

If you have ever wondered if you were considered common law married, or perhaps you want to know if you can challenge a family member's will or maybe you want to know if your child deserves child support, here is your chance to find out, for free.

As they have for years, the Oklahoma Bar Association will sponsor a Law Day when regular folks around the state can call in, actually get a lawyer on the phone and get some free advice on any type of issue, according to Woodward County Bar Association Committee Chairman Mike Meinders.

Thursday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. attorneys across Oklahoma will man a call bank and answer legal questions for free, Meinders said. The number to call is 800-456-8525.

The Ask A Lawyer free legal advice project is just one of several events in which Oklahoma lawyers participate in Law Day, said Oklahoma Bar Association Communications Specialist, Emily Buchanan.

"This year more than 1,000 students statewide entered Law Day art and writing contests. Other students are taking part in various Law Day activities such as classroom visits from lawyers and judges and learning how legal rights and obligations change on one's 18th birthday," Buchanan said.

According to Meinders, the day is celebrated because it highlights and reminds people of the freedoms and privilege that the American legal system offers.

The day was originally proclaimed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958. In 1961, Congress set aside May 1 to honor the day, according to Buchanan.

"Each year they do it, they create a theme around it," Meinders said.

This year, the theme is "Democracy and You." Key to this focus is a chance for lawyers to help people understand the role of government and a citizen's role in the process, according to OBA President, Renee Demoss of Tulsa.

Meinders, who practices almost all types of law, criminal, civil, family law and contract law, said he participates because it is a chance to help people.

He said most questions that come on the hotline typically follow a civil theme, with everything from child support issues, to family matters.

So Meinders agreed to preempt himself a little before the real Law Day and talk about one of the more oft asked questions - "How do I know if I am common law married?"

According to Meinders, you are married according to the common law statutes in Oklahoma by meeting several elements of common law marriage:

1. The couple agrees they were or are married.

2. The couple holds themselves out to the community as husband and wife

3. The couple has a permanent and monogamous relationship.

3  The couple lives together as husband and wife.

Meinders said most of these elements need to be met before the state will recognize you as common law married. However, he said, even if a couple meets all of these elements, yet has set a date to be legally married, Oklahoma will not recognize the common law marriage.

According to Meinders, the only time one element of the common law marriage statute seals a common law marriage is when a couple files their taxes as a married couple.

"When you check that box on your taxes, that seals the deal, you are married," he said.

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