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A common law marriage in common law states means that a couple can be recognized as husband and wife and entered into by couples by choice and/or by circumstance. Common law marriages avoid many of the documentary requirements of a traditional statutory marriage. In this type of marriage, no license is obtained and no wedding ceremonies are held.
Certain basic laws applicable to statutory marriages also apply to common law marriages, of which capacity to enter into a marriage contract is the most important. Aside from these requirements, the couple must publicly hold themselves as husband and wife including cohabitation in some cases. The laws of the states that allow common marriage differ on the length of time that a couple must have cohabitated, even if cohabitation by itself does not create a common law marriage.
In the eyes of the law, a common law marriage is treated the same way as statutory messages especially with regard to tax laws that regard couples in a common marriage in the same manner as couples in a statutory marriage.
While a couple can enter into a common-law marriage, they cannot agree to a “common law divorce”.
In alphabetical order, the following are the common law states in the United States. Also, only three jurisdictions recognize same-sex marriages as common marriage: Iowa, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. A couple married under the common law in one state may move to another state that does recognize common law marriage and still be recognized as common law husband and wife.
• Alabama. In this state, the parties must have the mental capacity to enter into a marriage, have public recognition of their marriage, and the marriage must be consummated. Both parties must be at least 16 with parental consent.
• Colorado. The requirements in this state are, the cohabitation must prove the relationship, the couple must hold themselves out to be husband and wife, and consent to be husband and wife.
• District of Columbia. The requirements for establishing a common law marriage are, the parties’ explicit intent to be married, that the two persons are legally free to marry, and if the couple is known in the community to be husband and wife. D.C. recognizes same-sex marriages.
• Iowa. The state requires three elements to have a valid common law marriage: The couples’ intent and agreement to be married, continuous cohabitation, and their public declarations holding out to the public that they are husband and wife. Iowa recognizes same-sex marriages.
• Kansas. In Kansas, the requirements are, the man and woman must be competent to enter into a marriage. They must have a present marriage arrangement, and are cohabitating. The couple must also represent themselves to the public that they are married.
• New Hampshire. This state recognizes common law marriages only upon the death of one of the spouses. In other words, common law marriages are only recognized posthumously and are for inheritance purposes only. Also, the couple should have been generally reputed as husband and wife for at least three years before the death of one of the spouses.
• Montana. The parties must be competent to enter into a marriage, mutually consent to a common law marriage, cohabitate, and have a reputation of being married.
• Oklahoma. The requirements are the parties must be competent, must agree to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitate, and must have a reputation of being married.
• Pennsylvania. Recognizes common law marriages made before 2005. A common law marriage was established by the exchanging of words between a man and a woman indicating their intent to be married at present.
• Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, a common law marriage exists if a man and woman seriously intended to be married and engage in conduct that leads to a reasonable belief by others in the community that they are married. Rhode Island recognizes same-sex marriages.
• South Carolina. A man and woman must have a present intent to enter into a marriage contract, and must have others believe that they are married.
• Texas. Also called, “informal marriage” in the state. The couple must sign a form provided by the county clerk, must agree to be married, cohabitate, and represent to the public that they are married.
• Utah. A court or administrative order must establish that the parties are of legal age and capable of giving consent. The parties must also have the capacity, have cohabited, and have the reputation that they are husband and wife.