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Facts - Books - News    U.S. Facts Of Law:

Common Law Marriage

Learn About Common Law Marriage
And How It Affects You

Common-law marriage is a form of legal marriage where the parties have not submitted to a formal marriage proceeding.  Common law marriages are recognized by some U.S. States, Canada and many European countries.  Normally, recognition of such a marriage does not require legal documents to be completed but many couples considered joined by such complete protective documents with regards to their assets and children.

Subjects of concern to those legally married by common law marriage laws include feeling they are in a trap and what alimony payments could be required to their spouse should the marriage dissolve.

Common law marriages are recognized in all states where the marriage was legally contracted in a state that permits such marriages.  Presently only a hand full of states still permit common law marriage.  These states include, Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.  California does not.

New Hampshire also recognizes such marriages but only for purposes of probate.  The state only recognizes the marriage posthumously when one of the parties to the marriage dies to enable the surviving party to more easily inherit the couple's assets.  While the couple are both living the state does not recognize the marriage.

Some states have just recently abolished the creation of any new common law marriage contracts.  These include Georgia in 1997, Idaho in 1996, Ohio in 1991 and Pennsylvania in 2003.

In Utah, a common law married couple who has a marital breakup must obtain a declaration of marriage from a court within one year after the breakup.  If the couple does not obtain this declaration within one year, the state will not recognize the validity of the marriage and division of marital property will be settled by a civil court as a contract question rather than by the family law court as a divorce question.  This distinction my create serious differences in the disposition of property for most couples.

In Texas, if a couple does not establish the existence of a legal common law marriage within two years after breaking up, the marriage is considered to have never existed.

As a general rule, if a couple holds themselves out to others as husband and wife, then they will be presumed to be legally married until proven otherwise.  It does not matter if marriage vows have been taken by the couple.  Since a couple considered married by common law marriage does not have a certificate of marriage to prove the marriage, they may be required to pass other tests to prove they have a valid marriage.  Although the requirements to prove common law marriage vary by jurisdiction, one or more of the following are commonly required:

  1. The couple presents themselves to society as husband and wife.
  2. They must behave as husband and wife in their daily lives.
  3. One party has changed their last name to that of the other.
  4. The couple files tax returns under the "married" status
  5. Both parties consent to the marriage and do not feel coerced into the marriage.
  6. The couple has cohabitated for a specified period of time.
  7. The couple has made a declaration of marriage before a judge and it has been filed with the county clerk.

An engagement or agreement to be married at a future date is generally considered evidence that the couple is NOT married.

Although a couple may be permitted to join into common law marriage, there are no provisions for common law divorce.  A couple legally married by common law marriage wishing to divorce must file a petition for dissolution of marriage just as if it were a traditional marriage.


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i24NEWS i24NEWS Israeli couple takes restrictive marriage laws to Supreme i24NEWS An Israeli couple has seen recognition of its orthodox Jewish marriage turned down by the state39s Chief Rabbinate and interior ministry on the basis that it wasn39t carried out by a state sanctioned rabbi, and is appealing to the Supreme Court in and more raquo

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Mondaq News Alerts Canada: CRA Monitors Your Bedroom Common Law Marriage For Tax Purposes Mondaq News Alerts CRA monitors your bedroom A common law marriage is an informal relationship that does not require the legal form of a statutory marriage. Furthermore, a common law marriage relationship is a matter of fact which is determined by analyzing the partners

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Facts of Law covering common law marriage laws

Facts of Law - Common Law Marriage