Under the common law marriage doctrine, you're considered legally married — despite not having a marriage license, a ceremony, or a marriage certificate — if you meet specific requirements (according to your state law). The benefits of common law marriage include the right to inherit upon the death of one spouse, the right to spousal support, and a division of property should the marriage terminate.
The jurisdictions that recognize common law marriage and the requirements of each are listed below. In addition, states will recognize a couple as married if their union is contracted by a common law marriage state and meets those requirements, even if these states themselves lack statutes providing for common law marriages (the legal doctrine for this is called "full faith and credit."
Common Law Marriage States: Summaries of the Law
- Colorado. In order for a common law marriage to exist in Colorado, both parties must be of legal capacity to be married, and the relationship must be proven by the cohabitation of the common law spouses and their reputation in the community for being married.
- District of Columbia. In the District, a common law marriage is established by the parties' express intent to be married and their cohabitation for a significant period of time.
- Iowa. A common law marriage is established in Iowa by the parties' intent and agreement to be married, their continuous cohabitation, and their public declarations that they are spouses.
- Kansas. In Kansas, the spouses must have the mental capacity to marry, they must agree to be married at the present time, and they must represent to the public that they are married in order for a common law marriage to exist. There is no requirement for cohabitation.
- Montana. A common law marriage in Montana requires that the parties must have the capacity to consent to marriage, they must agree to be married, they must cohabitate, and they must have a reputation in the community for being married.
- New Hampshire. This state recognizes common law marriages for couples who cohabitate and hold themselves out as a married couple for at least three years.
- Oklahoma. The parties must be competent, agree to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitate, and be financially interdependent in order to be considered as having a common law marriage.
- Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, a common law marriage exists if the couple has a serious intent to be married and engages in conduct that leads to a reasonable belief by others in the community that they are married.
- South Carolina. In this state, if a couple intends for others to believe they are married and cohabitate, a common law marriage may be established.
- Texas. If a couple in Texas signs a form provided by the county clerk, agrees to be married, cohabitates, and represents to others that they are married, a common law marriage exists.
- Utah. Utah recognizes common law marriage if the couple is of age and legally able to consent to marriage, has lived together, treated each other as spouses, and holds themselves out as married.
Make Your Common Law Marriage Official: Get Professional Legal Help
Whether or not your relationship is considered a common law marriage can have an enormous impact on your property rights. If you live in a common law marriage state, you'll want to know what your options are if you're living with your long-term partner but not married.
Eliminate the guesswork and get in touch with a local family law attorney today.