Common law marriage has been in existence in the United States since 1877. Common law marriage is around today in one form or another in a hand full of states and the District of Columbia. In addition, five states currently recognize this type of marriage with some restrictions.
Defining Common Law Marriage
In the most traditional manner, a couple is deemed to be married after a formal ceremony and getting a marriage license through the state. However, some marriages are so traditional in definition. A common law marriage is one in which the couple lives together and holds themselves in front of others in their community as “being married,” but without ever having gone through a ceremony or having obtained a marriage license.
In order to prove a common law marriage, you need to have more than just “lived together.” Below are some common requirements of validating a common law marriage in most states:
- You must live together for a certain period of time
- You both must have the legal right or “capacity to marry”, which means:
- Both individuals must be at least 18 years old
- Both individuals must be of sound mind
- Neither individual must be married to someone else
- You both must intend to be married to each other
- You must both hold yourself out to friends and family as being a married couple, by any of the following actions:
- Taking the same last name
- Referring to each other in public as “husband”, “wife” or “spouse”
- Having joint credit cards
- Having joint bank accounts
States that Recognize Common Law Marriage
- Only a few states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriage, and each has specific stipulations as to what relationships are included:
- District of Columbia
- Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
- Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
- New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
- Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
- Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma’s laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
- Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
California and Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage in California ended in 1895. Even thought the state does not formally recognize common law marriage, couples who continuously live together may still have certain rights to property divisions and financial support as if they had been legally married. These rights are only recognized under strict circumstances.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Family Law Attorney
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Central Valley divorce attorney, please call Gurjit Srai (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.