Common Law Marriages

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Common-Law-Marriage Divorce Law

Common Law Marriages

A common law marriage is a marriage that takes place without a license or ceremony. This is currently possible in only 9 states (Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) and the District of Columbia. The law is unclear at the moment in Oklahoma, and it may not be possible to form a new common law marriage there. However, Oklahoma, as well as a few other states (Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), does recognize common law marriages that took place there before the state’s cut-off date (cut-off dates in these states range from 1991-2003). New Hampshire recognizes common law marriages there for purposes of inheritance only. All states recognize valid common law marriages from other states.
In order to form a common law marriage, the partners usually must have the capacity to enter into a marriage (i.e. be old enough), live together, and tell people they are husband and wife. In some states they have to agree to be married, and in Texas they must sign a form available from the county clerk.
Once a marriage has been formed by common law it’s the same as any other marriage. There is no such thing as common law divorce, and spouses married by common law must go through a divorce proceeding to end the marriage. All the same laws about property division and children apply.
If you have ever lived with a partner and held yourself out to be married in a state that allows common law marriages to be formed, or allowed it at the time you lived there, you should check the applicable state laws to see if a valid marriage has been formed. This can have a serious impact on a couple, for example, that claims to be married in Alabama and then moves to California, where spouses own all income as community property.

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