Common Law Marriage States
Under the common law marriage doctrine, you are considered legally married, despite not having a marriage license, a ceremony, or a marriage certificate, if you meet specific requirements listed in the statutes of the jurisdiction where you live. The benefits of common law marriage include the right to inherit upon the death of one spouse and the right to spousal support and an equitable division of property should the marriage terminate.
The jurisdictions that recognize common law marriage and the requirements of each are listed below. In addition, various other states will recognize a common law marriage if it was valid in one of these states and meets these requirements, even though those states do not themselves have statutes providing for common law marriages.
- Alabama. In this state, the parties must agree to be husband and wife, they must have the mental capacity to enter into and understand such an agreement, and they must consummate the marital relationship.
- Colorado. In order for a common law marriage to exist in Colorado, the relationship must been proven by the cohabitation of the common law spouses and their reputation for being married (on or after Sept. 1, 2006).
- District of Columbia. In the District, a common law marriage is established by the parties' explicit intent to be married, by their cohabitation for a significant period of time, and by holding themselves out to the public as a married couple.
- 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 husband and wife.
- Kansas. In Kansas, the man and woman 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.
- Montana. In Montana, 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 of 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, and cohabitate in order to be considered as having a common law marriage.
- Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, a common law marriage exists if a man and woman have a serious intent to be married and engage in conduct that leads to a reasonable belief by others in the community that they are married.
- South Carolina. In this state, if a man and woman intend for others to believe they are married, a common law marriage may be established.
- Texas. If a man and woman in Texas sign a form provided by the county clerk, agree to be married, cohabitate, and represent 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, have lived together, treated each other as spouses, and hold themselves out as married.
Get a Free Case Review from a Family Law Attorney
Whether or not your relationship is considered a common law marriage can have an enormous impact on your property rights. Since a common law marriage can be formed without the knowledge of the parties to the marriage and doesn't even appear on the statutes of many states it can be very difficult to determine whether courts will decide you are married to a longtime partner. Luckily, you can have an experienced attorney provide you with a free case evaluation.