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States That Recognize Common Law Marriage

Couples who live in states that do not recognize common law marriages introduce confusing legal territory. Even though there is no way to form a common law marriage in these states, no matter how long you live with your partner, all states recognize legal marriages that occurred in other states as legal. With this fact in mind, a couple that spends time in a state that recognizes common law marriage, presenting themselves as a married couple are then legally married as a common law couple and that marriage remains legally binding when they return to the state that does not recognize common law marriages.


Colorado Georgia (If created before 1/1/97)
Kansas Iowa Idaho (If created before 1/1/96)
Montana Oklahoma New Hampshire (For inhericance purposes)
Pennsylvania Rhode Island Ohio (If created before 10/10/91)
South Carolina Texas Utah

Even though these states recognize common law marriage, couples that live together must meet certain criteria for the state to consider their common law marriage as a legal marriage. The main part of these criteria is a couple that lives together and presents themselves as a married couple to others by appearing to be married in every way by:

  • Telling the community they are married.

  • Calling each other husband and wife.

  • Using the same last name.

  • Filing joint tax returns.

Couples that live together and follow the criteria above have a legally binding common law marriage. This means they are living together and legally married in every way, even though there was no ceremony or marriage license. Common law couples must follow the same rules of marriage and commitment as couples who were married with a ceremony and license.

Take note that if a couple lives together in a state that recognizes common law marriage they must be clear to each other and to the state that their intention is not to marry. Many attorneys in these states recommend an agreement to live together as two free and independent beings and neither intends to be married in any way, common law or otherwise. Sign and date this agreement as any other contract.

Choosing to end a legal marriage, common law or otherwise, means divorce, whether or not there was a wedding. It may be best for couples who are living together to make their intentions clear to each other and to the state by having a wedding ceremony, complete with a marriage license, if they intend to be married or signing an agreement to live together, as above, no matter what state they live in.

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