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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 be proven by the cohabitation of the common law spouses and their reputation for being married.

  • District of Columbia. In the District, a common law marriage is established by the parties' explicit intent to be married and by their cohabitation.

  • 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.

  • New Hampshire. This state recognizes common law marriages only upon the death of one of the spouses. In other words, common law marriages are recognized in New Hampshire for inheritance purposes only.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Pennsylvania. A common law marriage is established in Pennsylvania by the exchanging of words between a man and a woman indicating an intent to be married at the present time.

  • 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 does not recognize common law marriage, however courts can retroactively approve the marriage of couples without ceremony 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.

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