Skip to content

A common myth is that if you live with someone for seven years, you automatically create a common-law marriage. This is not true – marriage occurs when a couple lives together for a number of years (a year in most states), posing as a married couple and intending to get married. Same-sex couples have the same rights to apply for common-law marriage as any other couple. Even if you are unable to marry by the time you start living with someone, you can still find yourself in a common-law marriage. This could happen if you or your partner divorce an ex-spouse while living together in a de facto marriage. Or you can move in with someone who is married and their spouse dies while you live with them. In both cases, you didn`t have the option of getting married when you moved in with your partner, but you regained that capacity through divorce or the death of your spouse. PLEASE NOTE: Unmarried Equality does not employ lawyers, so we cannot provide legal advice in personal situations. If you have additional questions about common-law marriage in your state, seek help from a lawyer. Each of the states will have its own requirements for a couple to have a valid common-law marriage, such as the minimum age (usually 18) and the minimum age to live together – living together for at least 3 years, etc. In a common-law marriage, on the other hand, a couple who have never taken vows in a civil or religious ceremony may be recognized as the legal equivalent of an approved married couple. There are many reasons why people may prefer a common-law marriage to a formal one.

Long-term couples may fall into one of the following categories: Common-law marriage was abolished in Illinois in 1905. Since then, Illinois courts have repeatedly confirmed that a cohabiting couple does not have the same rights as a legally married couple. If you are married by traditional marriage, you will receive marriage certificates that are sufficient proof of your new name. However, people married common-law do not have a marriage certificate. In this case, you will need a court order documenting your name change. This documentation is useful for proving to private entities such as banks that you have legally changed your name, but it is required by government agencies to change things like your government-issued ID, passport, and Social Security card. Nevertheless, there are of course couples who prefer to live together without getting married legally. For these couples, it is possible to conclude a cohabitation contract. It is a legally binding contract between two consensual adults that determines how finances and property will be divided.

There are restrictions to these agreements. They cannot legally determine custody or child support through them, but they do provide some level of protection for couples living together long-term. If you live in one of the above states and consider yourself married (by telling the community that you are married, calling yourself husband and wife, using the same last name, filing joint tax returns, etc.), you can enter into a common-law marriage (for more information on each state`s specific requirements, see Legal Information and Resources by State). Common-law marriage makes you legally married in every way, even if you have never received a marriage license. If you decide to end your relationship, you will have to divorce even if you never had a marriage. Legally, at common law, married couples must follow the same rules as “normal” married couples. If you live in one of the common law states and do not want your relationship to become a common-law marriage, you should be aware that your intention is not to marry. The lawyers who wrote Living Together (additional information below) recommend a written agreement that both partners sign and date: “Jane Smith and John Doe agree on the following: that they have lived together as two free and independent beings and will continue to live together, and that neither of them ever intended to enter into any form of marriage, customary or other law. A common-law marriage is an arrangement in which an unmarried couple presents themselves to friends and family as married, but does not legally marry. Common-law couples have the same rights as a married couple.

But precisely because de facto marriage is not recognized, there are ways to make legal agreements with an unmarried partner. If you and your spouse are still not getting married, but you want to protect each other, you should consult a lawyer to see what can be done. California law states that if a marriage is valid based on the laws of another place such as another state or country where the marriage took place, California recognizes the marriage. Suppose a couple lives in another state or territory where the marriage is recognized at common law and is officially considered married. The couple later decided to move to California. In general, family courts can recognize their marriage as official in that state. De facto marriage is permitted in a minority of States. A common-law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not obtained a marriage certificate or whose marriage has not been solemnized at a ceremony. Not all states have laws dealing with common-law marriage. In some States, jurisdiction and public order determine validity.

It is a legal relic left in this country since the early days of the American colonies and the old ideas of marriage and cohabitation. At the time, it was difficult to find someone to celebrate a marriage, and cohabitation and illegitimate children were socially unacceptable. Common-law marriage has given these couples legitimacy and a means to pass on property. Marriage is the legal union between two people. In most states, marriage requires a license and ceremony. In most jurisdictions, marriage requires that they be married by an ordained minister or other person who has been given authority to solemnize a legal marriage. Most U.S. states require legal marriage to receive spousal benefits such as a joint tax return or division of financial accounts. So, if couples are living together in record numbers, should involuntary common-law marriage be a problem? For couples who live together in states where there are common-law relationships and want their wish to remain single to be clear, partners can write and sign a document explaining their intention to remain single.

There is a common misconception that if you live together for a certain period of time (seven years is what many people believe), you are married at common law. This is not true anywhere in the United States. Technically, there is no divorce at common law. If you are in a legally recognized informal marriage and want to end the relationship, you will need to divorce regularly like any other ceremonial married couple. Many spouses hire divorce lawyers because the court has to decide things like child support and custody, spousal support, and division of property. Even in states where common-law marriages are legal, time is usually not the most important factor. Usually, it`s the way a couple presents themselves, their situation, and how they`ve blended together financially and in other parts of their lives that makes the difference. Couples often have to publicly refer to each other as husband and wife, or refer to each other as spouses. So you have been with your partner for a long time. It`s time to consider yourself married, a kind of “marriage-like” status that kicks in when you`ve lived together for seven years.

Right? “Usually, it`s the economically disadvantaged partner who wants to argue, `Yes, we were married,` and the other partner says no,” says Michele Zavos, a family lawyer practicing in Washington, D.C., where common-law marriages are recognized. Common-law relationships have existed for more than 100 years, but they are relatively rare today. Today, they are recognized in only a handful of states. Even so, many states that recognize common-law relationships have strict restrictions. “Well, we`ve never had a formal wedding ceremony and haven`t applied to the state for a license, so I don`t think we`re legally married. But we live together in the house we bought together 20 years ago. And our family and friends consider us married. We also have shared bank accounts, credit cards and 2 children. A common-law marriage is a marriage in which the couple lives together for a period of time and presents themselves as “married” to friends, family and community, but never goes through a formal ceremony or receive a marriage certificate. Here are three of the most common requirements for most states (note that simple “cohabitation” is not enough to validate a common law marriage). “By far the most common number is seven years,” says Marsha Garrison, a family law professor at Brooklyn Law School.