Common law marriage virginia all you need to knowCommon law marriage Virginia is not legal, but it exists in some U.S. states, thus common law marriages created in other states (where they are legal) are also recognized in Virginia.

This complete guide discusses all the factors and aspects of common-law marriage and its alternatives in Virginia.

Does Virginia Allow Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage Virginia is not recognized, but if it was done in a state or country that allows the creation of common law marriage, then it is also recognized in Virginia. The laws of the state where the common law marriage was created will apply to the marriage.

Couples cannot enter a marriage common law in Virginia. To have a married status, a couple must marry formally according to the Virginia marriage laws. To get married in Virginia, the couple has to hold a ceremony and get a marriage license.

Without a marriage license, the couples cannot have the benefits that married couples have such as joint filing of taxes, social security benefits, and insurance benefits.

It is illegal to establish common-law marriages and for unmarried couples to live together in Virginia. However, the Virginia cohabitation law does not apply to couples in common-law marriages that were established outside Virginia in a state that authorizes common-law marriages.

A couple cannot get married by living together in Virginia because common-law marriages are not recognized in Virginia. To become a married couple in Virginia, a couple must get married formally by holding a ceremony and getting a marriage license.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in Virginia

In such a case when two individuals want to protect their assets and inherit the property of the other partner after their death, they can choose to get into a cohabitation agreement. The two major agreements other than common law marriage are domestic partnership and cohabitation agreement.

Unfortunately, Virginia does not recognize domestic partnerships as well as Virginia common-law marriage. Requirements for a cohabitation agreement are discussed later in this article.

If two unmarried individuals live together, upon splitting up, they won’t have the right to demand property that they had bought together. Because marriage is a long-term commitment and many couples choose to move in together before getting married or never get married, they need an agreement to get certain rights that married couples have.

The only alternative to a common-law marriage in Virginia is a cohabitation agreement that is not only recognized but can also be created in this state. Usually, when two individuals buy a house or a car together without a cohabitation agreement, they do not have any legal rights to split it if it is in one individual’s name.

Cohabitation agreement ensures the couple is protected financially. The agreement lets them decide who is responsible for expenses, debt repayment, credit card payments, and how division of assets would take place if they split or one of them dies. Here is how it works:

– Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement is between two parties who are romantically involved but do not plan to get married in the foreseeable future. Cohabitation agreements are recognized in Virginia so that unmarried couples (who cannot enter common law marriage as it is illegal) can have similar rights as married couples.

The cohabitation agreement is a legal document that lets an unmarried couple decide financial matters and who the children would live with if the couple separates, or if one partner becomes seriously ill or dies. Commonly, a cohabitation agreement allows you to have:

  • A share in your partner’s asset
  • Access to state pensions, insurance, etc.
  • Secure next of kin rights in medical emergencies to take decisions
  • Child custody as decided

Even if you live together for a long time, you won’t have the right to inherit assets of your partner after their death or split assets that were bought jointly. Having a cohabitation agreement is useful if you are living together and don’t plan on getting married. For a cohabitation agreement, you must be:

  • 18 years of age or above
  • Free to enter the agreement
  • Sign the agreement
  • Keep the agreement updated at all times

To make sure that you enter a legally recognized cohabitation agreement, you should hire a solicitor who is an expert at cohabitation laws in Virginia.

Here are some advantages of pursuing a cohabitation agreement with your partner.

Legal Entitlement

Partners living together often buy assets such as property or a car together or one buys it but another one contributes to it. If they are not in a marriage or a legal arrangement, the one who owns it will be the legal owner and the other one may not be able to receive anything. For instance, when the couple started living together, one of them had already mortgaged a house.

The other one who moved in offered to pay 70 percent of the monthly mortgage payment and therefore has a share in the house. Even if both partners decide to mortgage the house together but one pays the entire mortgage payments, they will both have a 50:50 share in the house.

The cohabitation agreement lets them decide who gets what if the couple splits. In the above example, the couple may decide that the one who owns the house is charging rent to the other partner or is letting them co-own the house.

One partner could be responsible for mortgage payments while the other might be taking care of expenses such as groceries and bills. The agreement under the Virginia cohabitation law, in such a situation, will be legally binding and protect both parties from losing what is theirs.

Avoid Conflict

Ending a relationship is emotionally draining and can also become extremely complex if financial assets are not split correctly. Improper division of assets or disagreements regarding who gets what can lead to severe conflicts that require litigation. Having a cohabitation agreement can help you stay informed about who will get which asset.

Avoiding conflict is essential because serious disagreements can lead to lawsuits and lawsuits can become very expensive. Therefore, having a cohabitation agreement will help you save thousands of dollars if the worst happened to your relationship or your partner.

Make Split Easier

A cohabitation agreement clearly defines the responsibilities and ownership of both partners. When both partners know what belongs to them, there are fewer chances of disagreements.

This will not only avoid problems at the time of separation but will also save you from feeling bitter after the relationship ends. If you and your partner have kids together, you would also want to make sure that you stay at good terms with your partner for the sake of the children.

You can also agree to financial settlements and child support if the relationship ends in a cohabitation agreement. This will ensure that your partner will pay for your child’s future expenses. If one of the parents passes away, the child and the surviving partner will receive the property of the deceased partner.

Your solicitor may require you to set up your will along with the cohabitation agreement to ensure your family stays financially protected if one of the partners passes away.

– Cohabitation Agreement vs Marriage

Although a cohabitation agreement gives several rights to an unmarried couple, these rights are limited when compared to an official marriage. There are much more legal obligations in a marriage as compared to a cohabitation agreement under Virginia marriage laws.

If you decide to split, as a couple in a cohabitation agreement you’d only have to follow what you agreed to. But if you separate as a married couple, you’d have to go through a divorce that is complicated and more expensive.

Cohabitation agreements cost money upfront but they help you save a lot of money down the road. Also, when the relationship ends, the parents have the same rights and obligations as married parents going through a divorce.

So, if your child’s parentage is established, the non-custodial parent will have the same legal obligation to support the child as a divorced non-custodial parent.

If you choose to get married after living together and entering a cohabitation agreement, you’ll be able to do so without any legal implications. To protect your property and decide financial obligations before marriage, you can get a pre-marital agreement. Just like a cohabitation agreement, a pre-marital agreement lets you decide financial matters before marriage.


– Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Virginia?

Yes, but under the cohabitation laws Virginia, unmarried couples should set up cohabitation agreements to protect assets, finances, and the future of their children before living together. Since common law marriages are not allowed in Virginia, this is the best alternative you can go for.

Take note that Virginia does not allow the creation of common law marriage but it recognizes the common law marriages created in other U.S. states and foreign countries that allow common-law marriages.

– When Was Common Law Marriage Abolished in Virginia?

In 1887, the State of Virginia made it illegal for its citizens to enter common-law marriages. Under the current marriage laws in Virginia, a couple must marry formally or enter a cohabitation agreement in order to live together. This safeguards the finances, assets, and welfare of the children, if any.


In Virginia, if you want to get married, you and your partner must get married formally. There is no common-law marriage in this state.Common law marriage virginia what to expect

  • Virginia does not allow common-law marriages.
  • Cohabitation agreements allow you to secure your financial future by pre-agreeing about how assets will be divided and which partner will get custody of your children if the relationship ends.
  • To ensure your cohabitation agreement is legally binding, it is highly recommended to involve a solicitor in the process.

However, you can prove a common-law marriage that existed in another state or foreign country in court in Virginia. Alternatively, you can set up a cohabitation agreement if you are living together and want to decide what happens to finances, property and children if the relationship ends or one partner becomes ill or dies.

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