A common law marriage is the legal process in which two individuals partake as an alternative to a traditional marriage, which is validated by marriage certificates and marriage licenses. In states where common law marriage is recognized, couples can enjoy the benefits of marriage without participating in a traditional marriage – and wedding – ceremonies.
States that Recognize Common Law Marriage
Common law marriages are not recognized on a national level; certain states recognize common law marriage, while others recognize specific circumstances of common law marriage. The following states recognize common law marriage:
• Washington DC
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina
In the event that a common law marriage was filed at a specific date in time, the following common law marriages are recognized:
• In the event that common law marriage was filed before January 1st, 1997 in Georgia, the common law marriage is recognized
• In the event that common law marriage was filed prior to January 1st, 1996 in Idaho, the common law marriage is recognized
• In the event that common law marriage was filed for inheritance purposes in New Hampshire, the common law marriage is recognized
• In the event that common law marriage was filed prior to October 10th, 1991 in Ohio, the common law marriage is recognized
• In the event that common law marriage was filed before January 1st, 2005 in Pennsylvania, the common law marriage is recognized
However, mention should be made that even in a case where a common law marriage is recognized by a specific state, that recognition does not carry over to other states that do not recognize common law marriages.
How to File for Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage can only be filed with the expressed purpose of maintaining a valid, longstanding, and salient union; due to potential marriage fraud, the following elements must be satisfied in the filing for common law marriage:
• The couple in question must share habitation and/or residence; mail, bills, and expenses must be sent from – and received – at a single, shared address
• The couple in question must share a hope that the union is a long-lasting one; common law marriages are neither temporary, nor can be used for temporary means
• Although there exist common misconceptions regarding common law marriages, there exists no standard duration of time in which couples must live together; however, the only stipulation listed expresses the period of cohabitation be a ‘substantial period of time’
• The couple in question must act in accordance to standards held by a traditionally-married couple; the couple undergoing common law marriage must publicize their existence as a union
Legal Recourse for Common Law Marriage
Due to the faith and credit stipulation regarding marriage listed in the Constitution of the United States, many states do not recognize common law marriages due to the lack of legal certification and licensing; an attorney specializing in marriage law or common law can provide assistance for couples exploring common law marriage.