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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Common-Law Marriage

What Is Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriage is a term that applies to a legally recognized marriage between two people that do not have a marriage license, and that haven’t formalized their marriage through an official ceremony.

This type of marriage usually bestows both parties with the same benefits and obligations of a formal marriage, without requiring any legal documents or procedures. However, certain requirements must be met to qualify for this type of arrangement.

Furthermore, if a couple that has common-law marriage status wishes to get divorced, they will typically have to draft a separation agreement and undertake the same divorce process as a normal marriage.

In this article, we’ll cover which states allow common-law marriages, and what requirements you need to fulfil if you wish to engage in this kind of arrangement.

Which States Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriage is recognized within 9 different states across the United States, as well as in the District of Columbia. Some of these provide for this type of marriage within their state law, while others do so through court decisions.

The states which recognize common law marriage are as follows:

  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Texas

There are also some states which grant limited recognition and legality to these types of marriages. These states will usually recognize common-law marriages if couples met the necessary requirements before this type of marriage was abolished:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio

Common-Law Marriage Requirements

Although a marriage that is recognized under common law doesn’t require a marriage license or formal ceremony, there are still certain requirements that must be met. First and foremost, the state must recognize the legitimacy of these types of marriages.

However, whether a common law marriage exists depends on a number of other factors as well. These can vary from state to state, but some of the most common requirements are listed below:

  • The couple has lived together for a certain period of time (amount of time varies by state)
  • Both parties meet the minimum age requirement to get married (age limit varies by state)
  • Both parties must be of “sound” mind and capable of agreeing to marry
  • Neither party may be married to someone else
  • Both parties intend to be married
  • The couple holds themselves in public as a married couple (for example, by opening up a joint bank account)

In general, it’s important to check the specific provisions of the state in which you reside to determine whether your relationship qualifies for a common-law marriage or not.

Helpful Resources:

NCSL - Common Law Marriage by State

NPR - No, You're Not In A Common-Law Marriage After 7 Years Together

FindLaw - What is Common Law Marriage?

Nolo - Which States Recognize Common Law Marriage?

What Is Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriage is a term that applies to a legally recognized marriage between two people that do not have a marriage license, and that haven’t formalized their marriage through an official ceremony.

This type of marriage usually bestows both parties with the same benefits and obligations of a formal marriage, without requiring any legal documents or procedures. However, certain requirements must be met to qualify for this type of arrangement.

Furthermore, if a couple that has common-law marriage status wishes to get divorced, they will typically have to draft a separation agreement and undertake the same divorce process as a normal marriage.

In this article, we’ll cover which states allow common-law marriages, and what requirements you need to fulfil if you wish to engage in this kind of arrangement.

Which States Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriage is recognized within 9 different states across the United States, as well as in the District of Columbia. Some of these provide for this type of marriage within their state law, while others do so through court decisions.

The states which recognize common law marriage are as follows:

  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Texas

There are also some states which grant limited recognition and legality to these types of marriages. These states will usually recognize common-law marriages if couples met the necessary requirements before this type of marriage was abolished:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio

Common-Law Marriage Requirements

Although a marriage that is recognized under common law doesn’t require a marriage license or formal ceremony, there are still certain requirements that must be met. First and foremost, the state must recognize the legitimacy of these types of marriages.

However, whether a common law marriage exists depends on a number of other factors as well. These can vary from state to state, but some of the most common requirements are listed below:

  • The couple has lived together for a certain period of time (amount of time varies by state)
  • Both parties meet the minimum age requirement to get married (age limit varies by state)
  • Both parties must be of “sound” mind and capable of agreeing to marry
  • Neither party may be married to someone else
  • Both parties intend to be married
  • The couple holds themselves in public as a married couple (for example, by opening up a joint bank account)

In general, it’s important to check the specific provisions of the state in which you reside to determine whether your relationship qualifies for a common-law marriage or not.

Helpful Resources:

NCSL - Common Law Marriage by State

NPR - No, You're Not In A Common-Law Marriage After 7 Years Together

FindLaw - What is Common Law Marriage?

Nolo - Which States Recognize Common Law Marriage?