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Checklist: Documents That Establish A Common Law Marriage

Even if you do not currently live in a state that specifically recognizes common law marriages, you may be able to establish that one exists or existed if you used to live in a common law state and can offer written documentation. Examples of documents that can be used to establish the existence of a common law marriage are listed below.

  • A personal affidavit stating when and where you and your common law spouse mutually agreed to become husband and wife; whether you were ever married, ceremonially or otherwise, to anyone else, and the details surrounding the end of any previous marriages (how they were ended, where, and when); and any other details that will help to establish the existence of a husband and wife relationship.
  • Affidavits from other persons who know you and are familiar with your relationship, setting forth particulars such as the length of time you lived together; your address(es); whether there was any public announcement of your marriage; and whether your friends, neighbors, and relatives regard you as married.
  • Deeds showing title to property held jointly by both parties to the common law marriage.
  • Bank statements and checks showing joint ownership of the accounts.
  • Insurance policies naming the other party as beneficiary.
  • Birth certificates naming you and your common law spouse as parents of your child(ren).
  • Employment records listing your common law spouse as an immediate family member.
  • School records listing the names of both common law spouses as parents
  • Credit card accounts in the names of both common law spouses
  • Loan documents, mortgages, and promissory notes evidencing joint financial obligations of the parties.
  • Mail addressed to you and your common law spouse as "Mr. and Mrs."
  • Any documents showing that the wife has assumed the surname of her common law husband.
  • Church records indicating familial status, including membership information, baptismal certificates of the parties' child(ren), Sunday School registration forms, etc.
Next Steps
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(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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