Common Law Marriage

In a handful of states, couples who meet certain requirements might be considered married even if they never went through a legal marriage ceremony or obtained a marriage license. In almost all of the states that recognize these “common law marriages” (sometimes called “informal marriages”),  the couples have all the same rights and responsibilities as any married people. And if they split up, they'll need to get a divorce in order to deal with legal issues like dividing their property, alimony, child custody, and child support.  

But common law marriage is much less common now than most people think. Only a few states still recognize it, and it can be difficult to prove that you’ve met the requirements. Some of the states listed below recognize all common law marriages, although the rules can vary from state to state. Other states on this list recognize only common law marriages that were established before a certain date, when state laws changed to get rid of this informal type of marriage. This list also includes states that don’t recognize common law marriages (whenever they were created), but where the courts might award support to some longtime unmarried partners or divide their property.

Finally, you should know that if you established a common law marriage in a state where it was legal, but you later moved to a state that doesn't recognize these marriages, your marriage should still be valid. That’s because Article IV of the U.S. Constitution requires states to give “full faith and credit” to the laws and legal proceedings of other states.

Learn about your state's common law marriage laws:

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