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Why dependent partners can lose workers' comp claims in Georgia

Marriage isn't for everyone. Some couples don't care for official ceremonies. Others may not want to spend their hard-earned money on an extravagant party. Nonetheless, many couples live together in loving, committed relationships for years.

In today's post, we discuss a recent ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which found that if your unmarried partner dies on the job, you could be exempt from receiving workers' compensation benefits.

Reynalda Sanchez and Juan Martinez-Martin were in a long-term, committed relationship. The two lived together continuously since 2002. They planned to be married in 2015.

In 2011, Sanchez became legally disabled due to diabetes affecting her feet. Unable to work, she was reliant on Sanchez to cover all of their living expenses.

In 2015--before they were to be married, Martinez-Martin died in a workplace accident. As the sole dependent of the deceased, Sanchez filed a workers' compensation claim. Her claim was denied because she and Martinez-Martin were not legally married.

The case made its way to the state Court of Appeals, which upheld the decisions of the lower courts. For workers' compensation claims, it found that "a meretricious relationship works to deny dependency benefits, even if actual dependency exists."

What about common law marriage?

Georgia barred the creation of common law marriage in 1997. However, couples who entered into common law marriage before this date are still seen as legally married in the eyes of the state. Therefore, common law spouses could still receive workers' compensation benefits, if their partner dies on the job.

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