Common-Law Marriage Isn't That Common

October 25, 2018


Have you been with your significant other for going on… say seven (7) years now? Think you’re now in that legal status where you have a common-law marriage? You are most likely mistaken.


The idea of a common-law marriage, in which just residing together for a handful of years, with the average idea of it being seven years, will provide you the legal status of married is a myth. A Common-Law Marriage is real and legal, because you get all the useful things from it like tax breaks and legal protection. And as with any marriage, if you change your mind, you have to do the regular type of divorce. Really, it only happens in a handful of states, and unless you are in those states, and unless you meet certain requirements, you are not very likely to suddenly be married to your long-term roommate, significant or otherwise. Most states require a license and for you to actually say that you ‘do.’


What is a Common-Law Marriage?


When two people have not purchased a marriage license or had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony, but determine they will acknowledge each other as husband and wife and are cohabitating in a state that recognizes Common-Law Marriage, meet the states requirements, such as that they are eligible to be married, and will live as such with family and friends aware of this, then they may enter a Common-Law Marriage.


Marriage is not just living together and sharing a life together. Its legal and medical paperwork too, which helps prove the marriage. There is a requirement for proof in the common-law marriage only during divorce and the death of one or both of the parties, when the validity is questioned. There is no set formula to determine a Common-Law Marriage, and this can often be confusing for courts.


Common-Law Marriage was for times in which finding someone to officiate a wedding, giving couples who may have otherwise cohabitated and had children out of wedlock legitimacy and legal protection. Living in sin back then was not acceptable and offended their neighbors. Nowadays, it is so easy to get married legally, that this type of marriage is not as necessary. Couples today are living together and may or may not have children, and are choosing whether or not to take the time to go to the courthouse to get a marriage license in record numbers.


Which States Have Common-Law Marriage in 2018?


The Common-Law Marriage thing is really not done in most states, and, in fact, many states have already done away with it or didn’t practice it. When it comes down to it, these states listed below are where you can get a Common-Law Marriage:






New Hampshire

South Carolina




Within these states, it may be that it is not specifically prohibited or that there are certain requirements that allow for a Common-Law Marriage. For example, South Carolina allows for marriages without a valid license. They may require both parties to be eighteen (18) years or older at the time that the marriage begin, like in Colorado and Kansas.


Some states do not have a statue that allows Common-Law Marriage to be contracted, and only their case law recognizes Common-Law Marriage, or they have requirements to recognize the marriage. These states are the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and Oklahoma.


Some states have legislation that do not recognize Common-Law Marriage. These states are Alabama, Florida, California, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. In the State of Maryland, Common-Law Marriages have never been permitted to be contracted, along with twelve other states. However, all states will recognize Common-Law Marriages that were legally permitted and contracted in another state.


If you have any questions in regards to this legal matter, please contact the Law Offices of William C. Fanning, Jr., today for a consultation in regards to the above referenced matter.

For the full article, 'No, You're Not In A Common-Law Marriage After 7 Years Together,', seen here, please visit:





We assist individuals and families with family law issues and other legal concerns in Southern Maryland, Washington DC, and throughout the region. For more information about how Fanning Law, LLC can help you and your family, contact Bill Fanning at Fanning Law, LLC - The Offices of William C. Fanning, Jr. - 301.934.3620 or at




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