If you live in the United States, you may be familiar with the term “common law marriage.” However, if you’re like most people, your understanding of common law marriage is entirely different from what the term truly means.
Many people believe that a couple that lives together for a set period is considered common-law married. However, this is an inaccurate belief. While common law marriages are recognized in several states, there are not any states where a couple that lives in the same household for a specific number of years is considered common-law married.
Before we get into the specifics surrounding common-law marriage laws, let’s identify which states acknowledge these relationships. As of 2018, eight states acknowledge common law marriages through final legislation. Those states are:
Common law marriages are also permitted by law in Washington, D.C.
The requirements to establish a common law marriage vary by state. In Washington, D.C., for example, a marriage is legally recognized without a ceremony or marriage license if both parties are legally allowed to marry, if both wish to be married, and if the community knows the couple as husband and wife.
In the state of Texas, there are two ways that a couple can enter into a common law marriage. One way is for the couple to agree to marry, live with each other within the state, and represent to others that they are married. Couples may also file a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the County Clerk.
In some states, common law marriage is permitted only for specific purposes. For example, Iowa acknowledges common law marriage simply for the support of dependents. In New Hampshire, common law marriages are recognized just for probate purposes.
Several states previously recognized common law marriage. While these states no longer accept new common-law marriages, marriages that previously entered before common law marriage was abolished are recognized. Those states are:
Thirteen states have never allowed common law marriage. However, common-law marriages contracted from other states are recognized in these states. Those 13 states are: