Exploring Common Law Marriage

Photo of author

By Divorce & Finance

In this article, we explore the topic of common law marriage, its benefits and limitations, state and international recognition, and legal aspects such as divorce, taxes, and social security. Providing you with valuable insight and knowledge about this fascinating area of family law.

What is a Common Law Marriage?

Definition and Key Elements of Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage, also known as informal marriage or marriage without a marriage license, occurs when a couple lives together and intends to be married but has not gone through the process of obtaining a legal marriage certificate. The couple cohabits and presents themselves as husband and wife, establishing a solid foundation for their common-law marriage. These relationships are recognized by certain states in the United States and by other countries under specific requirements.

The Difference between Common Law and Legal Marriage

Understanding the difference between common law marriage and legal marriage is essential for those considering their options. A legal marriage involves obtaining a marriage license, participating in a ceremony, and registering the union with the government. In contrast, a common-law marriage does not require any of these traditional formalities. Instead, couples can be considered “married by common law” by fulfilling the criteria laid out by the states that recognize common law marriage.

Benefits and Limitations of Common Law Marriage

Despite the ease of establishing a common law marriage, there are benefits and limitations to this form of union. Common-law spouses may be eligible for spousal support, property division, and social security survivor’s benefits. However, common-law marriages may not be recognized beyond specific jurisdictions, limiting the couple’s rights, especially if one partner or spouse dies. Furthermore, couples may face difficulties proving their marital status in the absence of a marriage certificate, potentially limiting their access to various essential legal services.

Which States Recognize Common Law Marriage?

List of States that Recognize Common-Law Marriages

As of now, several U.S. states, including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia, recognize common-law marriages. However, certain criteria must be met for the marriage to be legally recognized in these states.

Factors that Determine State Recognition of Common Law Marriage

States that recognize common law marriage typically require the couple to cohabit, intend to be married, and publicly present themselves as husband and wife. Specific requirements, such as the minimum duration of the relationship, may vary by state. Moreover, couples may not be married to someone else or be close relatives. It is important to consult with legal experts in your state for accurate information regarding common law marriage requirements.

Moving to a Non-Recognizing State: What Happens to Your Common Law Marriage?

If a couple moves from a state that recognizes common law marriage to one that does not, their marital status may still be acknowledged under the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the new state may have additional requirements or procedures for recognizing the relationship. Couples concerned about their rights should consult with a family law attorney for guidance.

Understanding Common Law Marriage
Understanding Common Law Marriage

How do Couples Establish a Common Law Marriage?

Intention to be Married: Declaration and Cohabitation

An essential aspect of establishing a common law marriage is the couple’s intent to be united as husband and wife. This is generally demonstrated through a verbal or written declaration and continuous cohabitation. Cohabitation is a crucial element, as it indicates the couple’s commitment to building a life together as a married couple.

Public Representation as Husband and Wife

Common law couples must also present themselves as husband and wife in public, behaving in a manner that would lead others to believe they are indeed married. This may include sharing the same last name, referring to each other as spouses, and other social activities that illustrate their marital relationship.

Duration of the Relationship and Legal Requirements

Several states that recognize common law marriage may also require the relationship to last a specific duration before being legally recognized as a marriage. Legal requirements vary by state, so it is crucial to understand your jurisdiction’s rules to ensure your relationship is recognized as a legitimate common law marriage.

Does Common Law Marriage Exist Internationally?

Common-Law Marriage in Other Countries

While not as widespread as in the United States, common-law marriage does exist in other countries, such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Much like in the U.S., these countries have specific requirements that must be fulfilled for a common-law relationship to be legally recognized.

International Recognition of Common Law Marriage

When traveling or relocating internationally, couples in a common-law marriage may face challenges in having their relationship recognized by foreign governments. Some countries may not acknowledge common law marriage or impose additional requirements to validate the union. It is crucial for couples to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations in their destination country to ensure their common-law marriage is acknowledged and their rights protected.

Implications for Immigration and Travel

A common-law marriage may affect a couple’s ability to travel and immigrate to other countries. While some nations may recognize the relationship for the purposes of family reunification, others may not. Couples planning an international move should consult with an immigration attorney to discuss their options and ensure they understand the implications of their common-law marriage status in their destination country.

Legal Aspects of Common Law Marriage: Divorce, Taxes, and Social Security

Do You Need to Get a Divorce if You Have a Common Law Marriage?

Yes, couples in a common law marriage must go through the legal process of divorce if they wish to terminate their relationship. This process involves the division of property and may also involve spousal support and child custody arrangements. The process is the same as those legally married through a marriage license, ensuring that both parties’ rights are protected.

Filing Tax Returns as a Common Law Married Couple

Common-law married couples may have to file tax returns jointly, depending on the rules of their jurisdiction. Couples should consult with a tax professional to understand the implications of their marital status on their tax returns and ensure they comply with their obligations.

Common Law Marriage and Social Security Benefits

Common-law spouses may be eligible for social security benefits based on their partners’ work history, provided their state recognizes their marriage. However, keep in mind that eligibility requirements and benefit amounts may vary based on individual circumstances, making it crucial to contact the Social Security Administration for accurate information regarding your situation.

Rate this post
Divorce & Finance