Common Law Marriage North Dakota: Ways To Get Married Legally

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By Divorce & Finance

Common law marriage north dakota can it be doneCommon law marriage North Dakota isn’t recognized unless it occurred in a different jurisdiction. Common law marriage is when a man and woman live together as husband and wife without conducting a marriage ceremony or receiving a marriage license.

A common law couple doesn’t have similar marriage and property rights as formally married partners.

This article will outline why common law marriage isn’t recognized in North Dakota and describe the available marriage alternatives to this form of marriage.

Does North Dakota Recognize Common Law Marriage?

North Dakota doesn’t approve common law marriages within its jurisdiction. Unless the union happened in common law marriage states, the legal laws in North Dakota won’t formalize the common law marriage. However, there exist several other alternatives to common-law marriage.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in North Dakota

The legal alternatives to common law marriages in North Dakota include cohabitation agreements and traditional marriages. Since the state doesn’t approve the common-law marriage, you can pick either of these options to have your union formalized. You’ll then access similar rights as other formally married couples in North Dakota. Below, we’ll discuss both alternatives to common-law marriage in detail.

– Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement in North Dakota is a contract initiated by unmarried couples living together. The contract is enforceable by law and seeks to outline how both parties will relate to each other. The agreement states each party’s obligations, rights, and duties. It also outlines the modalities of property division (for a jointly owned property) if death or separation occurs.

If a cohabiting couple seeks to prove their union, having a cohabitation agreement in place could make everything easier.

Common factors that a couple may describe in a cohabitation agreement are:

  • Each party’s property or debt before entering the relationship.
  • The contribution that each party will make during the cohabitation.
  • The best way to divide marital property is in the event of a separation.
  • How to deal with joint debts if the unmarried couple separates.
  • If one will be entitled to alimony (spousal support) during separation.

A cohabitation agreement in North Dakota applies to opposite or same-sex couples. The agreement can include anything the couple thinks will protect each party’s interests.

How Do Cohabitation Agreements Work?

A cohabitation agreement works by protecting the rights and duties of unmarried couples. It covers issues to do with property ownership and marital obligations. The agreement offers guidance when a cohabiting couple seeks to separate and is at crossroads on how to deal with outstanding debt or lease agreement.

Since most cohabiting couples commingle their finances and other obligations, a cohabitation agreement helps outline what each party needs to fulfill on issues to do with:

  • Mortgage
  • Car payment
  • Utilities
  • Lease agreement
  • Household expenditure, etc.

Before drafting a cohabitation agreement, the unmarried couple must sit down and outline what each is bringing to the relationship. The couple must also agree on what happens to the personal and joint assets if they decide to separate. Through the agreement, each party gets assured of their rights during and after the cohabitation.

If a couple isn’t sure about what to include in a cohabitation agreement, they should consult a family law attorney.

Things To Include in a Cohabitation Agreement

The good thing about a cohabitation agreement is that a couple may custom tailor it to fit their preferences. There’s no fixed formula for crafting an agreement during cohabitation North Dakota. However, it would help if you considered the following clauses and provisions for your agreement.

  • Assets previously owned. Each party must outline what they came with to the relationship. Previously owned property could include real estate, bank accounts, furniture, or cars.
  • Previous debts. If a party is entering a relationship with some debts, they must let the other person know it and state the procedure for clearing the debt.
  • Ways to pay mortgage or rent. Since the couple will now be living together, they must state in their agreement whether they will jointly pay for mortgage/rent or which party shall be responsible for this.
  • Who inherits the house. The cohabiting couple must discuss who moves out of the house if they break up. If only one name is on the deed, it becomes easy to determine who moves out. However, the party to move out should have a timeframe.
  • Bills and utilities. The couple must decide on how they’ll share household bills and expenses. They must also indicate whether they plan to combine their renter or auto insurance.
  • Child custody. If an unmarried couple has a child between them, they should consider using the cohabitation agreement to discuss issues with child visitation and custody if they decide to break up.
  • Pets. If the unmarried couple plan to keep a pet during the relationship, they must state who takes ownership of the pet in the wake of separation. You should treat pets as property and hence must account for them.
  • Property acquired jointly. Since the couple may acquire assets like appliances, furniture, and joint bank accounts during the period of cohabitation, they must decide the person to inherit such property if they separate.
  • Debts accrued during the relationship. If a cohabiting couple decides to take a loan to buy a car, they must decide on how they’ll service the loan in the event of a break-up.

The cohabiting couple must include their signatures, addresses, and full names to formalize their agreement. They should also think of having their cohabitation agreement notarized.

– Traditional Marriage as an Alternative to Common Law Marriage North Dakota

Another alternative to common-law marriage in North Dakota is seeking a legal marriage. Traditional marriage in North Dakota refers to a mutual relationship arising from a civil union between a man and woman. Parties entering a marriage relationship have the right to maintain, annul or dissolve it when they wish to and according to North Dakota divorce laws.

In this case, a “married spouse” is a person of the opposite sex, either a wife or husband. Is marriage worth it in North Dakota? Yes, the laws in North Dakota allow any resident to marry their partner as long as they fulfill all marital requirements, including a license for marriage. A member of the armed forces that resides in the state can also marry their partner as long as they have the same residence address.

The minimum age requirement for a couple to seek marriage in North Dakota is 18 years. If either of the couples falls in the age range of 16-18, they’ll have to seek legal consent from their parent (s) or guardian (s).

Marriage Restrictions in North Dakota

The law in North Dakota prohibits marriage between:

  • Parents and children
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Stepparent and stepchild
  • Aunts and nephews or
  • First cousins.

You should therefore ensure that no blood relationship should exist between you and the person you intend to tie the knot. To have your marriage formalized, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license from the office of the County Clerk within the state. A cash fee payment of $65 is required before you acquire the license. You’ll then have at most 60 days to conduct a marriage ceremony before the license expires.


– Does Domestic Partnership North Dakota Exist?

A domestic partnership isn’t recognized in North Dakota unless it occurred in another state that recognizes it. If domestic partners had obtained the domestic partnership from another state, they would enjoy similar rights as formally married couples in North Dakota.

– What Happens If My Partner Dies and We Are Not Married?

If you lived together as an unmarried couple, you have no legal rights over your boyfriend’s property. The only scenario you can inherit his property is when he has listed you as part of the beneficiaries or heirs in his will. The court must also validate the will.

– Is There a Waiting Period To Get Married in North Dakota?

No. Once you’ve received a marriage license from the County Clerk, you can proceed with your marriage ceremony. There’s no waiting period to get married after receiving your marriage certificate.


We’ve learned that common law marriage in North Dakota  is not recognized, and in summary, this article has outlined that:

  • Common law marriage north dakota happy coupleNorth Dakota can only recognize a common law marriage if it took place in another state that allows it.
  • The main alternatives to common law marriage in North Dakota include cohabitation agreements and traditional marriages.
  • A cohabitation agreement allows unmarried couples to define their rights and duties when cohabiting.
  • Traditional marriage laws in North Dakota allow a couple to marry formally by obtaining a marriage license.
  • You can obtain a license in North Dakota by paying a cash fee of $65 to the office of the County Clerk.

If a couple chooses to use a cohabitation agreement as an alternative to common law marriage in North Dakota, they’ll enjoy similar privileges as married couples. They can jointly own assets and even list each other as beneficiaries of personal assets in the event one party dies. To conduct a traditional marriage in North Dakota today, ensure you physically visit the office of the County Clerk alongside your partner, provide identification documents and pay the required fee ($65).

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