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State Laws: Common Law Marriage

The concept of common law marriage has been recognized for many years in the U.S. Essentially in a common law marriage two parties create a valid marital relationship without the benefit of a legal marriage ceremony performed according to the statutory requirements of that particular state.

To be defined as a common law marriage within the states that allow it, the two people must: agree that they are married, live together, and present themselves as husband and wife.

What if My State Doesn't Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Even if you currently live in a state that doesn't specifically recognize 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.

Same-Sex Marriage and Common Law

Currently, only Iowa, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia recognize common law same-sex marriages . Most other common law states make the law gender-specific so only a man and a woman can enter into a common law marriage.

The following list contains a state-by-state look at common law marriages.

State

Allowed?

ALABAMA

Yes

ALASKA

No

ARIZONA No
ARKANSAS

No

CALIFORNIA No
COLORADO

Yes

CONNECTICUT No
DELAWARE No
FLORIDA No
GEORGIA Yes, but only for marriages entered into before January 1, 1997.
HAWAII No
IDAHO Yes, but only for marriages entered into before January 1, 1996.
ILLINOIS No
INDIANA No
IOWA Yes
KANSAS Yes
KENTUCKY No
LOUISIANA No
MAINE No
MARYLAND No
MASSACHUSETTS No
MICHIGAN No
MINNESOTA No
MISSISSIPPI No
MONTANA Yes
NEBRASKA No
NEVADA No
NEW HAMPSHIRE Yes, but only for inheritance purposes.
NEW JERSEY No
NEW MEXICO No
NEW YORK No
NORTH CAROLINA No
NORTH DAKOTA No
OHIO Yes, but only for marriages entered into before October 10, 1991.
OKLAHOMA Yes, definitely for marriages entered into before November 11, 1998. Controversy over the law for any common law marriages after that date.
OREGON No
PENNSYLVANIA Yes, but only for marriages entered into before January 1, 2005.
RHODE ISLAND Yes
SOUTH CAROLINA Yes
TENNESSEE No
TEXAS Yes
UTAH Only "Judicial Recognition" of a common law marriage is accepted.
VERMONT No
VIRGINIA No
WASHINGTON No
WEST VIRGINIA No
WISCONSIN No
WYOMING No

Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Legal recognition of a relationship as a marriage can be complicated. Consider talking to a family attorney to go over your options. A lawyer can advise you about the laws and any documents you may need to prove or disprove a common law marriage. Keep in mind that it is important to speak to a lawyer familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. Most offer free consultations, so your first step should be to contact an experienced family attorney.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure
your rights are protected.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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