– L. Arthalia Cravin
If you’re wondering what common law marriage and diabetes have in common the answer is nothing. This past week both of these topics came to my attention because of something unusual. First common law marriage.
Last week a federal judge sentenced an Amarillo woman to 21 months in prison and ordered her to pay $90,482.60 in restitution for fraudulently receiving widow’s benefits after her first husband died. The court said that the woman did not reveal that she had entered into a common law marriage with another man after her first husband died which would have reduced the amount of benefits. The real trouble arose after the second husband died and the woman she also applied for widow’s benefits under his name. Last year another judge, this time in an Amarillo state district court, another result happened. An interracial couple, whether relevant or not, found themselves in court. The man said that he had been in a common law marriage with the woman and that he was entitled to half of the community property. The woman said that they were “girlfriend-boyfriend” and not married. The judge sided with the woman in spite of evidence that they lived together, had a child together, shared household bills, and according to the man lived as husband and wife, including her taking out a life insurance policy on him listing herself as “wife.” He still lost—no common law marriage here.
So what is a common law marriage? For purpose of this commentary, if you have concerns about whether such a relationship exists, call a lawyer in your state. Do not rely on this general information column for legal advice. Having said that, a common law marriage is a situation where you have to get a divorce to “legally” get away from each other even though you never got a marriage license and never had a wedding. Texas is a common law marriage state, as are eight other states, Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, and Oklahoma. The requirements for a common law marriage are governed by state law. All common law, or “informal marriage” states require living together or some form of continuous cohabitation. Also, in some form or another, the parties must intend to be married and to either lead a life that conveys to others that they are married, or engage in conduct that leads others to believe that they are married. There is no such thing as a “secret common law marriage.” Colorado’s common law statute says this: Parties must both be over 18 years of age, must have agreed that they are husband and wife, must cohabitate as husband and wife after agreeing that they are husband and wife, and must hold themselves out to the public at large as husband and wife. Texas requires the following for a common law marriage: an informal marriage can be established either by declaration (registering at the county courthouse without having a ceremony), or by meeting a three-prong test showing evidence of (1) an agreement to be married; (2) cohabitation in Texas; and (3) representation to others that the parties are married. A 1995 update to Texas law adds an evidentiary presumption that there was no marriage if no suit for proof of marriage is filed within two years of the date the parties separated and ceased living together. But again, consult your attorney if your think you might have gotten married and didn’t know it.
The existence of a common law marriage landed one Texas woman in jail for almost 2 years plus a hefty fine. The other man walked out of court empty handed after a court ruled that the woman was not married to him and therefore he was not entitled to “one red penny” of HER assets. What is troubling about the federal case is that I know for a fact that another Texas woman, who was recently denied disability benefits, was told by the disability claims office to “go get a divorce” from her common law husband so she could qualify. Presumably this advice, if followed, can lead to big trouble down the road because the couple has no plans of living apart even if they do get a “sham” divorce so she can qualify for her disability benefits. I also know for a fact that for years married couples have had to do some soul searching over whether to divorce in order to qualify for Medicaid due to a serious illness. Some of these couple have actually gotten a divorce in order to qualify for benefits but continued to live together—as husband and wife. Either these couples did not live in common law marriage states or they are perpetrating a fraud—but so far none of these folks have gone to jail for their duplicity. Well enough said about this—but as I said, check with an attorney in your state if you want information specific to your issue about common law marriage. Now to diabetes.
Recently I saw a television show that said that a high fat diet, as opposed to high sugar diet, is the leading cause of diabetes. I though this sounded odd because I always thought that eating too much sugar was a cause of diabetes. What exactly is diabetes? Again, let me start with a disclaimer. I am not a doctor or a nurse and what I have to say is purely from a layman’s point of view. If you want diet specific information about diabetes consult your doctor. But, having said that, there is a general body of information about diabetes that we can all benefit from even though we are not in the medical field.
A recent national headline read: “Diabetes on the Rise: What Should America Do to Slow the Growth?”
The article said that “One in 10 U.S. adults has the disease now but could grow to 1 in 3 in the next 40 years. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about $170 billion in health care costs. The disease presents serious threats to health during a lifetime, including increased risk of heart attack, kidney failure, blindness and many other complications.”
What is diabetes? Online resources say that diabetes is a metabolism disorder and refers to the way our bodies use digested food for energy and growth. In short diabetes mellitus, the full name, is a failure to process sugar correctly. When your blood sugar is not controlled, too much sugar stays in your blood for a long time. That can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage can cause kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, foot problems, and heart disease. The digestive details of high blood sugar start with digested food that converts to glucose—a form of sugar in the blood. After food is digested the glucose makes its way into our bloodstream so that the cells can use the glucose for energy. Glucose cannot enter the cells without the insulin—it is insulin that makes it possible for our cells to take in the glucose. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. After we eat, the pancreas automatically releases an adequate amount of insulin to move the glucose into the cells thereby lowering the blood sugar level. A person with diabetes has a condition in which the quantity of glucose in the blood is too high because the body does not produce enough insulin, or no insulin, or for some reason the cells do not properly respond to the insulin that the pancreas produces. The result is too much glucose building up in the blood.
Now what about eating high fat diets and diabetes? One online resource says that the high fat diets increase the bad cholesterol level and that this is also very harmful especially to diabetics. The online article said this: “People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and limiting your saturated fat can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.”
A recent report advised Americans to do the following as a diabetes preventive measure:
- Get plenty of exercise—at least ½ hour per day
- Lose weight
- Do not eat trans fats and reduce saturated fates such as high-fat dairy products such as full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, 2% milk and sour cream., high-fat meats like regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and spareribs, lard, butter, fatback and salt port, cream sauces, gravies made with meat drippings, chocolate, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut and coconut oil and chicken and turkey skin.
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods
- Avoid eating foods made with sugar, bleached (white) flour and other refined carbohydrates such as white rice and dry cereals.
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol
Copyright 2011 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.