Laws Regarding Common Law Marriage

Many people consider common law marriage a quick and easy way to claim a spouse and an equally quick and easy way to get rid of one.

Neither assumption is actually true.

It is the common opinion that a real marriage is the only marriage that is legal. Common law marriages, on the other hand, are thought of as little more than playing house. Certainly, they’re not real marriages, right?

The real truth is that a common law marriage is just as binding as a marriage performed in a church ceremony or a justice of the peace’s office. In many cases, it just got started with a little less formality.

To make a common law marriage real, both parties must be old enough to get married in their state of residence. If either party is too young, parental permission is required.

Both parties must also agree to be married. They must present themselves to the public as a married couple, enter into and be bound legally by contracts as would any other married couple.

A common law marriage can develop over time, as a couple builds a life together that is just as meaningful and intimate as someone married in ceremony. Many common law marriages do, in fact, begin with a wedding ceremony; it’s just not licensed by local government authorities.

When children are born into a common law marriage, both parents are held just as responsible for their care and welfare as would parents married by license or formal ceremony.

Although there are no licenses issued for common law marriages, some states may require that they be legally recorded as public record.

One common misperception of common law marriage is that it is simply another term that means cohabitation. Cohabitation is a factor but there’s a lot more to these informal marriages than that.

And the required length of cohabitation before declaring themselves as husband and wife differs from one state to another, too. What’s more important is that the couple presents themselves and conducts their business as any other married couple would.

In the US, eleven states and the District of Columbia allow common law marriages, although details vary. Thirteen states never recognized this particular state of matrimony. The remaining states once allowed it but have since failed to support these marriages.

Interestingly, though, all 50 states and the District of Columbia acknowledge and accept the marriages of couples moving into their states, whether the marriages are the result of license, ceremony, or common law.

Once established in a quick and easy common law marriage, how does one go about getting out of it? Two options. Death may do you apart. And there’s always collaborative divorce.