Common Law Marriage

Aug 8, 2012 by

What is a Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage refers to a couple that for all intents and purposes are married except that they have never had a legally sanctioned wedding.

Is a Common Law Marriage Legal?

Only a few states recognize common law marriages and only between heterosexual couples.

Which States Recognize Common Law Marriages?

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (only for probate)
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Each state has its own rules for how a common law marriage is determined. Five states “grandfather” in couples that have been established before a given date.

Does Living Together Constitute a Common Law Marriage?

No, simply residing in the same house for a number of years doesn’t mean you have a common law marriage, you must also hold yourself out as a married couple, doing things such as filing joint tax returns.

Can I Change My Name in a Common Law Marriage?

Yes and no. Anyone can legally have their name changed, but you’ll have to petition the court to do it. Simply being a party to a common law marriage doesn’t mean a wife can legally use her husband’s name as it does in a legal marriage.

What is the Advantage of a Common Law Marriage?

If a state decides that you are a party to a common law marriage then you are eligible for all the benefits of any legally married spouse. This is particularly important in regard to government benefits, insurance claims, and property distribution if your spouse passes away.
 

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