What are the requirements for a common law marriage? This is a question most people nowadays are asking. Under the common law marriage precept, you’re viewed as lawfully wedded – regardless of whether or not you have a marriage permit, a service, or a marriage authentication – in the event that you meet particular necessities as per the state law. The advantages of common law marriage incorporate the right to inherit upon the demise of one partner and the right to spousal help and a fair division of property should the marriage end.
In the United States, common law marriages have been in presence since the ancient horse and carriage times of 1877. While it may seem like an old fashioned form of marriage, it’s actually still around today in some form or another in ten states as well as in the District of Columbia. Moreover, five additional states also perceive common law marriages as legal, but with limitations.
This article talks about the importance of common law marriage, which states recognize them, how to get into one, and what elements courts use to decide if one exists. Let us waste no time and get right into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is A Common Law Marriage?
- 2 How To Prove A Common Law Marriage
- 3 How Many Years Do You Have To Live Together For A Common Law Marriage
- 4 Common Law Marriage Divorce
- 5 States That Recognize Common Law Marriages
- 6 States Previously Allowing Common Law Marriage
- 7 Difference Between A Normal Marriage And A Common Law Marriage
- 8 Conclusion
What Is A Common Law Marriage?
In a common law marriage, the couple has to be living together for some amount of time and present themselves as “being married” to their friends, family and the community. However, they do not typically go through with a formal ceremony or apply for a marriage certificate.
Mentioned below are some basic requirements that a couple who wants to have a common law marriage must comply to. Note that these requirements are for most of the states that legally recognize such marital arrangements. However, simply living together, is not enough to be an authentic proof of a common law marriage.
- You must be living together for a certain amount of time (almost 7 to 10 years)that varies from state to state.
- Both individuals should be in the legal capacity to marry which means that:
- they should be more that 18 years old (this limit also varies from state to state).
- they should both be in their right state of mind.
- neither of them should be married to someone else.
- The couple should have an intention to get married.
- In front of friends and family, both parties must present themselves as a married couple. This can be done by:
- Taking up the spouse’s last name.
- Alluding to the other as “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse” when in public
- Having joint bank accounts or credit cards.
How To Prove A Common Law Marriage
Now that we have discussed the requirements of a common law marriage, let us take a look at how you can prove that you are in a common law marriage. Providing evidence for a common law marriage includes the court searching for documentation to show that the couple has alluded to one another as life partners, and that in front of loved ones, they introduce themselves as being married to one another. Recorded verification could incorporate a written form with the signatures of both the individuals. The form should state that the two of them mean to be a married couple. Proof of a common law marriage could also be a signed affidavit expressing that the couple is married. Such documentation is commonly used to acquire benefits, or incorporate one partner in the other’s insurance plan.
The various documentations that a court can ask for in order to prove a common law marriage, are (but not restricted to):
- Combined tax returns
- Records of joint bank accounts in the form of bank statements, credit cards or cheques;
- Deeds showing joint ownership of property
- Insurance policies where the partner is the beneficiary
- Employment records which show your common law partner as an immediate family member
- A will or other estate document referring to the partner as a spouse
- School records naming both parents as spouses
- Birth certificates showing you and your spouse as parents of your child
- Any document showing that one spouse is using the surname of the other
- Loan records or mortgages showing joint finances
- Church records like Sunday school registrations and baptismal certificates
It is imperative to provide evidence for a common law marriage while acquiring property, guaranteeing protection or government backed retirement benefits, or getting a separation. Companions ending a common law marriage must experience a similar separation measure as a common married couple.
However, the common law partner who is attempting to acquire property rights or the right to financial help should demonstrate that the marriage was substantial. If either party guarantees that there was no marriage, the inquirer party must demonstrate that the two individuals involved proposed to get married and a common law marriage existed. This is the reason numerous states no longer permit common law relationships.
How Many Years Do You Have To Live Together For A Common Law Marriage
Let’s suppose that you have been living with your partner for a very long time, almost seven years. So does that mean that it is finally time for you to start declaring yourself as a common law couple? Absolutely not! Firstly, common law marriage, which can be traced back to the old English law, isn’t a nationwide thing. It is only legal in a small number of states and unless you live in those states, your relationship will not be recognized as a common law marriage by the legal authorities. Although Alabama was one of the states that legally recognized common law partners, it just recently terminated that law which is a new and rising trend in the United States.
Although most states that have common law marriages, prefer approximately seven years of the couple living together, in most cases that too is not necessary. Couples usually avoid a formal, certified marriage for a couple of reasons. These include hesitation when it comes to making a public commitment or even never actually being able to get the chance to make it official. This means you may be saying goodbye to the big expensive party or the dreamy walk down the aisle. However, common law marriage is as real and legal as any marriage can get. Moreover, it also means that you are fit for all of the financial, economic and legal benefits given to couples with marriage certificates for example, tax breaks and inheritance rights.
To go into a common law marriage, a couple by and large needs to fulfill these prerequisites: be qualified to be married and live in one of the states that recognize common law marriages,, expect to get married and present themselves as a wedded couple. In other words, a couple who lives together either for a day, seven days or a year — states don’t have a time prerequisite — wants to get married and tell their loved ones they are.
Common Law Marriage Divorce
However, if situations arise where you have to separate, as in a typical divorce, then you have to keep in mind that there is no common law divorce. Moreover, even if there is, it can be tricky. That is on the grounds that proving a couple’s conjugal status and intentions often boils down to one partner’s statement against the other. For a status accepted to kick in by something as trivial as the progression of time, it tends to be shockingly difficult to prove. Little, close subtleties of the couple’s life end up as realities an adjudicator inspects.
A talented and qualified divorce lawyer can help you with any inquiries you may have with respect to common law marriage and separation. An accomplished lawyer can likewise teach you regarding your state’s particular laws with respect to the issue, and help with providing evidence for your marriage. Also, the lawyer can assist you with seeking legal separation, and speak for you in court, as deemed necessary.
States That Recognize Common Law Marriages
Given below are the few states that recognize common law marriages:
- Colorado: Common law marriage that legally started on or after Sept. 1, 2006, is credible if, at the time of marriage both individuals were 18 years or more, and if the marriage is not restricted by other laws.
- Iowa: Common law marriage should be entered for the reason of the Support of Dependents Chapter, other than that it is not particularly prohibited
- Kansas: Common law marriage is only authorized if the parties involved are 18 years old or above, and for the purposes of the Divorce and Maintenance Article, evidence of common law marriage is permitted as evidence of marriage between the two people.
- Montana: Common law marriage is not strictly prohibited, and is also not disregarded by the Marriage Chapter.
- New Hampshire: According to the Common Law Marriage law, two people living together and acknowledging each other as husband and wife, and generally reputed to be such, for almost 3 years, and until one of them dies, shall be recognized as having been legally married.
- South Carolina: permits common law marriages even without a valid license.
- Texas: Common Law Marriage is permitted in specific circumstances.
- Utah: Common law marriage is permitted given that the basic requirements are met.
Not all state law clearly allows for common law marriages. In Rhode Island, case law identifies common law marriages. Oklahoma’s law makes it mandatory for couples to get a marriage certificate. However case law has backed common law marriages in the state.
States Previously Allowing Common Law Marriage
Listed below are some states that did allow, and still do recognize common law marriage as valid, but only if it has taken place prior to the date it was abolished.
- Pennsylvania: Does not recognize common law marriage if entered after Jan. 1, 2005.
- Ohio: Does not recognize common law marriage if entered after Oct. 10, 1991.
- Indiana: Does not recognize common law if entered after Jan. 1, 1958.
- Georgia: Does not recognize common law if entered after Jan. 1, 1997.
- Florida: Does not recognize common law if entered after Jan. 1, 1968.
- Alabama: Does not recognize common law if entered after Jan. 1, 2017
However, common law marriages entered into before these dates will be recognized by the state.
Difference Between A Normal Marriage And A Common Law Marriage
In numerous jurisdictions, tying the knot requires being married by an appointed pastor or other individual who has a perceived position to ordain a legal marriage. This can be possible either in a religious setting or in a non-denominational or secular setting, for example, a city lobby or town hall. Here, a marriage permit is given and is formally recorded. In the United States, most states require a legal marriage for a couple to acquire spousal benefits, for example, recording a joint assessment form, sharing monetary records, etc. On the other hand, a common law marriage, as we have mentioned before, will perceive a couple equal to being legitimately wedded, regardless of whether or not the pair ever said their promises in a state or religious service or if they have a marriage permit. While states don’t have official standards on the books with respect to common law marriage, there are sure conditions that must be met for a couple to be viewed as married by common law.
If you have been living with your spouse for a long period of time and do not want to get into the entire hassle of going through a big, white wedding, then a common law marriage might be the way to go for you. However, it is important to keep certain things in mind. Couples who move out of the state where they actually got married on the basis of common law, should know that their marriage will still be recognized by all states even if it was a common law marriage that was lawfully entered into in another state. In any case, after the move, they might need to talk to a lawyer in their new state to be certain that they meet the legitimate commitments needed to keep up their privileges as a wedded couple. Keeping great records, particularly in the event that they move around a ton, can help with regards to asserting government benefits.