Common Law Marriage Alaska: When Does the State Recognize It?

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By Divorce & Finance

Common law marriage alaska happy coupleCommon law marriage Alaska isn’t recognized unless you prove it legally took place in another state. The laws in Alaska have special restrictions that govern how to validate marriage under common law. Unlike other forms of marriage, the common law type is relatively informal since no wedding takes place nor any union put on record.

This article will expound on the circumstances under which Alaska recognizes common law marriage and the possible alternatives in the state.

Does Alaska Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Alaska doesn’t recognize common law marriage created within its jurisdiction. Section 25.05.311 of the Alaska statute requires that all marriages created in this state receive adequate solemnization. An exception happens to those marriages created before 1st January 1964 without solemnization.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in Alaska

Since common law marriage in Alaska isn’t recognized, there exist some legal alternatives like a domestic partnership and cohabitation agreements.

But be aware that the state recognizes common law marriages created in those states that approved it. This becomes valid if you follow all the rules and regulations formalizing the marriage in those states. It’s therefore essential to gather the relevant testimonials and evidence before seeking to have your common law marriage validated in Alaska.

You can choose either of these alternatives to obtain a marriage license in Alaska. Let’s discuss how each alternative works.

– Domestic Partnership in Alaska

Alaska allows same-sex couples to live as domestic partners. A domestic partnership in Alaska is a civil union whereby unmarried couples stay together without the intention to marry. Although Alaska recognizes this arrangement, such couples may not enjoy rights and privileges similar to formal marriage.

However, the state doesn’t guarantee property settlements to domestic couples if they decide to terminate the partnership.

Requirements for Domestic Partnership in Alaska

To have your domestic relationship validated by the state, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Depict a close personal relationship.
  • Have a minimum age of 18 years.
  • Have shared one residence for at least the past six months.
  • Are not in a marriage or a known domestic partnership with another party.
  • Are the primary domestic partners to each other.
  • Have no blood or kinship connection to each other.
  • Have a joint responsibility for each other’s basic welfare.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Living as Domestic Partners in Alaska

Domestic partnership Alaska comes with some benefits and disadvantages. The laws allow you to access some privileges of formally married couples. Below are the legal advantages:

  • Insurance possibilities. In most scenarios, your insurance policy could also cater to your domestic partner as it does for a formally married spouse. This move allows you to seek funds to cater to your family’s life insurance and health care. Moreover, the insurance policy may also work for your children.
  • The option to ask for leave at your workplace. The law allows you to ask for a break at your workplace to attend to your sick domestic partner. You may also receive a bereavement leave if your partner dies. Like most long-term relationships, stepping away from work to address personal issues also works for domestic partnerships.
  • Sentimental value. Apart from the possible financial, health, and legal benefits, establishing a domestic partnership could help in cementing your relationship. You’ll consider it as sacred as other forms of marriage.

Here are the legal disadvantages:

Difficulties during property division. Since the laws in Alaska don’t offer well-defined guidelines about property division at the end of a domestic partnership, you may encounter some difficulties in dividing shared assets and debts.

No state benefits. Although specific companies may list benefits for domestic partners, the state doesn’t have legal rights that specify this. As a domestic couple, you should first identify the forms of benefits you may receive from your current employer or insurance provider.

– Cohabitation Agreement in Alaska

A cohabitation agreement in Alaska refers to a legal document drafted between two unmarried persons and helps outline each individual’s rights, responsibilities, and privileges. It also helps a party seek a claim on assets and liabilities in the wake of a breakup.

It’s therefore instrumental to the property division process. The agreement outlines each party’s intent on personal assets and property jointly owned.

A good cohabitation agreement should outline all aspects of the relationship to avoid future conflict. Like other forms of contracts, this type of agreement has some legal requirements. It should cover issues to do with:

  • Property division in the wake of a breakup or death.
  • Financial support for either couple during the relationship ends and afterward.
  • Creation of joint tenancy and joint deeds.
  • Responsibility for health insurance.
  • Division of the primary residence if death or breakup occurs.
  • Child custody and support.
  • Development of advanced health care directives.

The Legality of Cohabitation Agreements

Initially, unmarried couples could not enter marriage contracts without first getting married. However, following some litigation in Alaska, unmarried couples can now create non-marital agreements (cohabitation agreements). The three legal bases for the creation of cohabitation agreements include the following:

Unmarried couples have the freedom to create oral and written agreements that cover rights associated with formal marriages, e.g., property ownership during the relationship.

Unmarried couples have the legality to create cohabitation agreements even with no discussion or writing. If deemed necessary, the court may assess the couple’s actions and determine the agreement’s efficacy.

If no implied agreement exists, the court will establish whether the couple had honest intentions with each other. After that, it will grant the unmarried couple rights and privileges based on equity and fairness.

Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney

Wills and powers of attorney can complement a cohabitation agreement. Similar to a cohabitation agreement, these documents guarantee cohabiting partners their wishes if they die or become incapacitated.

Wills guide on how to distribute someone’s estate after their death. This document is essential for cohabiting couples since the intestate succession laws don’t recognize them under normal circumstances. If your cohabiting partner passes on but has left a will behind, it becomes easier to inherit their assets.

Additionally, the durable powers of attorney document give the cohabiting couple medical and financial rights over each other in the event of illness or incapacitation. In typical situations, unmarried couples aren’t allowed to make financial or health decisions on behalf of their partners. However, with durable powers of attorney, this is made possible.


– How Does Property Division Relate to Common Law Marriage Alaska?

Alaska doesn’t recognize common law marriage. However, when another state approves it, you’ll apply the property division laws found in Alaska. During property division in Alaska, the state recognizes marital and separate properties. You’ll only divide the property acquired during the marriage when divorcing.

Each spouse will fully own the property they came with into the marriage, provided they never mixed it with the community property. For example, if one party took part of their separate property to pay for a mortgage, that automatically changes to community property.

Also, both parties can agree on what to consider as separate property and what not to. In situations where no predefined community property exists, the laws in Alaska champion equal distribution of the existing property during divorce.

– How Do Premarital Agreements Relate to Common Law Marriage Alaska?

Premarital agreements in Alaska are simply contracts between marrying spouses that outline how they wish things carried out if they divorce.

Since one may enter the marriage with personal assets and other forms of property, the law permits them to declare (through a premarital agreement) how they would like such issues handled. Such contracts may outline how one would wish their finances dealt with.

In most cases, couples prefer to retain the custody of the property acquired before the marriage. For example, if one owned real property before the marriage, they may use the agreement to state that such property should not undergo division during divorce.

Premarital agreements also cover things to do with alimony. The spouses will decide who will provide financial support to the other during a divorce. To adequately enforce a premarital agreement, the state of Alaska demands that it should be made in writing and willingly signed by both spouses.


This article elaborates that common law marriage in Alaska isn’t recognized, and in summary, we get to know that:

  • Common law marriage alaska couple in common law marraigeCommon law marriage is only recognized in Alaska if validated in another state.
  • In Alaska, the best alternatives to common law marriage are domestic partnerships and cohabitation agreements.
  • The domestic partnership applies to individuals who want to live together but remain unmarried.
  • A cohabitation agreement seeks to outline the rights and duties of partners that want to live together without a formal marriage.
  • You can use wills and powers of attorney in conjunction with a cohabitation agreement.

Couples that seek to get married under common law in Alaska will need to provide substantial proof for the legalization of their union in another state. If that’s not the case, you can seek marriage through a domestic partnership or drafting a cohabitation agreement. Don’t hesitate to speak to a lawyer today if you need additional help with domestic partnerships or cohabitation agreements in Alaska.

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