Common law marriage Minnesota: the first thing you need to know is that its validity depends on several factors. Nowadays, these marriages are almost non-existent, as the state long abolished common law marriages. We scoured legal texts and reached out to marriage attorneys to find out more about this form of marriage.

In this article, we talk about marriages in Minnesota (including common law marriage) and answer common questions regarding its validity and the rights and duties of the spouses.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is also referred to as a marriage without formalities, informal marriage, or non-ceremonial marriage. It is a relationship that appears to be a marriage but lacks the usual formal procedure. Such a marriage, in fact, isn’t formalized by a ceremony, witnesses, and a marriage license. For this reason, you may wonder: is this form of marriage legal, and is it recognized in every state?

The concept of common law marriage has been around since the 1800s. As of today, eight states — plus the District of Columbia — still recognize this form of marriage in one way or another. Further, five more states recognize it with some restrictions. As such, there is a need to understand the requirements for a common law marriage in most of these states, as they may vary.

Validation of a Common Law Marriage

A common misconception when it comes to common law marriage is that couples who have cohabited for a long time — usually, about normally seven years — are common-law married. Well, this might apply in some states, but it’s not valid nationwide.

Even in the states that do recognize common law marriage, just a fact that two people are living together isn’t sufficient validation. Here are the common requirements for most states when it comes to non-ceremonial marriages:

  • You must live together with your partner for a given period. States will specify the required amount of time but, usually, it is around seven years.
  • Both parties must have the legal capacity to marry, just as in “regular” marriages. This means that:
      • Both parties must be at least 18 years old (the age limit may vary by state).
      • Both parties must be of sound mind.
      • Both parties must not be in another marriage.
  • There must be an intention for marriage.
  • A couple must hold themselves out to family and friends as being married. This is done by:
      • Publicly referring to each other as husband and wife.
      • Using the same last name.
      • Holding a joint bank account or credit card.

States that Recognize Common Law Marriage

While most states no longer recognize common law marriages, they are still valid in the following states:

– Colorado

Your common law marriage is valid if you entered into it on or after September 1, 2006, provided that:

  • Both parties were eighteen years or older at the time of signing the contract.
  • It isn’t prohibited by other laws.

– Iowa

Common law marriage isn’t explicitly prohibited. Therefore, it would appear that is valid when it comes to matters of supporting dependents, for example.

– Kansas

Common law marriage is recognized and allowed as proof of marriage of a couple on matters of divorce and maintenance.

– Montana

Non-ceremonial marriage may be recognized, as it isn’t invalidated by the Marriage Chapter of the Montana Statutes. Therefore, this form of marriage isn’t strictly prohibited in this state, although it does not have autonomous legislation.

– New Hampshire

Common law marriage is only recognized for the purpose of inheritance. The marriage will be recognized in the event of one partner’s death if:

  • The couple had lived together for at least three years
  • The relationship satisfied all the generic requirements for common law marriage at the time of contract.

– Other States

Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and the District of Columbia also recognize common law marriage as a legally valid form of marriage. Utah doesn’t recognize common law marriage, but a couple can ask the court to recognize their relationship as a marriage. Couples can do this by filing a specific petition at the local court.

Some states previously recognized common law marriage. It follows that some informal marriages will still be valid, provided that the couples fulfilled all requirements before the ban. Those states include:

  • Alabama (before January 1, 2017)
  • Georgia (before January 1, 1997)
  • Idaho (January 1, 1996)
  • Ohio (October 10, 1991)
  • Pennsylvania (before January 2, 2005)
  • South Carolina (before July 24, 2019)

Consulting a family law attorney can help you ascertain whether your marriage is still valid if you live in a state that previously recognized common law marriage.

Does Minnesota Recognize Common Law Marriage?

So, you’ve been living together with your partner in Minnesota for a long time. Because of that, you think that you qualify to be considered married by common law, right? Well, think again. Common law marriage in MN isn’t recognized, just like in many other states. As you may have noticed, it does not appear in the list of states that allow it or at least do not prohibit it.

Minnesota common law marriage was abolished in 1941. However, the state recognizes common law marriages that were legally contracted outside of the state. According to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, states should recognize common law marriages legally contracted in other states.

If you and your partner are living in Minnesota and do not intend to get married, you must consider signing a cohabitation agreement. More on that in the following sections but for now, let’s focus on the marriage requirements in Minnesota!

Marriage Laws in Minnesota

Your marriage must meet several criteria for it to be legally recognized. A valid marriage should fulfill the following Minnesota marriage requirements:

  • Both parties must be at least 18 years old.
  • The couple must get a marriage certificate.
  • There must be a civil or religious marriage ceremony.
  • The ceremony has to be solemnized by an authorized person in the presence of two witnesses.

For you to be legally married in Minnesota, you must not be married to anyone else. If you were previously married, you must have obtained a valid divorce from your previous spouse. Also, Minnesota doesn’t allow marriage between certain parties, including:

  • A person and their biological or adopted children.
  • A person and their biological or adopted grandchildren.
  • A person and their blood-related nieces or nephews.
  • A person and their first cousins.

Alternatives to Legal Marriage in Minnesota

Some couples living in Minnesota may prefer not to marry for specific reasons. As an alternative to legal marriage, such couples can still document their relationship for legal recognition in two ways. The first is the signing of a cohabitation agreement, while the second requires registering a domestic partnership.

– Cohabitation Agreements

Cohabitation agreements protect partners against certain legal consequences if the relationship fails. Particularly, they help address property and debt division, financial support, and child custody, support, and visitation rights. Given that some assets like bank accounts are shared, cohabitation agreements make the division more straightforward.

– Domestic Partnerships

Couples who wish to remain unmarried may also register as domestic partners. Like a cohabitation agreement, a domestic partnership Minnesota gives an unmarried couple some marital rights during and after the relationship. These rights vary by state but generally include:

  • Death benefits and inheritance rights
  • Housing rights
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Accident and life insurance
  • Ability to make financial and medical decisions for a partner
  • Visitation rights in hospitals and jails

In Minnesota, only 19 cities have laws that allow for the registration of domestic partnerships. To be registered, you and your partner must meet certain criteria. If your eligibility is in doubt, you should speak to a family lawyer who specializes in Minnesota marriage law.

City laws define domestic partners as two adults who:

  • Aren’t blood-related as specified under marriage laws of the city
  • Aren’t in another marriage
  • Have no other domestic partner
  • Have contractual capacity
  • Are in a committed relationship
  • Are responsible to each other

Can You Get a Divorce if You’re in a Common Law Marriage?

There is no shortage of questions and uncertainties when it comes to common law marriage. A common question is whether one can get a divorce if they’re in a common law marriage. First, a “common law divorce” isn’t a thing. However, a couple living in a state that recognizes common law marriage can legally terminate their marriage.

If your relationship hasn’t worked out, you can terminate it by pursuing a standard divorce, as in a traditional marriage. However, there is more to divorce in a common law marriage. Couples may still have to get divorced, even if they now reside in a state that doesn’t recognize common law marriage.

Here’s a case in point: Suppose a couple living in Texas are common-law married. They move to Arkansas, where common law marriage isn’t recognized. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that marriage should still be valid. It later happens that they need to get a divorce after moving to Arkansas.

In such a case, the couple will still need to go through the traditional divorce process in Arkansas. Getting a divorce will help with issues of property division, spousal support, and child custody if they had any children together. This would also be necessary if one of the partners wants to marry another person.

Benefits of Common Law Marriage

What makes common law marriages appealing to some people? Are there real benefits to this form of marriage? Well, couples in a common law marriage will have their relationship recognized by law. This means that such couples can enjoy equal marital rights as those in traditional marriages.

Additionally, couples in common law marriage also have property division, inheritance, and probably spousal support rights in the event of a divorce. Unlike an unmarried relationship, common law marriage offers these and other benefits — provided you reside in a state that recognizes it — but with more flexibility.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve dived deep into the details of common law marriage. Here’s are the main takeaways:

  • Common law marriage is still recognized in eight states and the District of Columbia.
  • Minnesota doesn’t recognize common law marriage.
  • There are equally legal alternatives to marriage in Minnesota.
  • The divorce process in common law marriage is similar to that of traditional marriage.

You and your partner can’t be common law married in Minnesota. The common way of legalizing a marriage is by getting a marriage license. If you and your partner are in a committed relationship but wish to remain unmarried, you may consider drafting a cohabitation agreement or registering a domestic partnership.

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