When most people think of getting married, they think about the process of applying for a marriage license, having a ceremony with witnesses, and then filing the license.
However, there is a way to get married legally without the necessity to obtain a license. What is a legal marriage without a license called?
A legal marriage without a marriage license is called a common-law marriage.
A common law marriage is when a couple is considered to be legally married after living together and behaving as if they’re husband and wife for a certain number of years.
Each state has its own specific rules regarding common-law marriages, and here is more information about common-law marriage so you can better understand it.
Why would a couple stay together so long without actually getting married?
Every couple has their own reason for not getting married after living together for a while.
Some couples simply become complacent and so comfortable with their lives that they feel it’s not necessary for a ceremony, as they often feel as if they’re already married.
Other couples have made plans to get married but one obstacle or another has prevented them from making things official. Some couples don’t actually want to get married at all.
Are common-law marriages recognized in all 50 states?
No, common-law marriage is recognized in very few states, and each state has its own set of specific rules.
Utah, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, and Texas all allow common-law marriage. Texas refers to common-law marriages as “informal” marriages.
So, if you live in a state that recognizes common-law marriage and you move to a state where it isn’t, then you will no longer be considered married in the new state unless you actually obtain a marriage license and have a ceremony.
Weren’t common-law marriages once recognized in all 50 states?
Common-law marriage was a lot more prevalent years ago than it is now, and more and more states are abolishing this type of marriage.
Many states feel that recognizing common-law marriages has become a hassle, especially when couples decide that they no longer want to be together.
Some states have limited recognition of common-law marriages, but each state that still recognizes this type of marriage with limitations has its own specific rules.
Are there any states that partially recognize common-law marriages?
Yes, there are some states that partially recognize common-law marriages. These states are Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Oklahoma.
In Pennsylvania, they are only recognized if they were created before January 1, 2005; in Georgia, before January 1, 1997; in Idaho, before January 1, 1996; before October 10, 1996, in Ohio; in Oklahoma, before January 1, 1998; and in New Hampshire for inheritance purposes only.
Is a common-law marriage treated exactly like traditional marriages?
In the states in which common-law marriage is legal, couples are treated exactly like married couples since their marriages are just as legal and binding as any other marriage.
If one spouse dies, the other spouse can become eligible for certain benefits from the deceased spouse.
Common law wives can also take their husbands’ last names, but they have to have their marriages validated in order to show proof to the DMV.
How do couples prove common-law marriages?
It can be difficult to prove a common-law marriage in some states, and only a judge can ultimately decide whether a common-law marriage is valid or not.
Some things that will be taken into consideration when trying to establish whether a common-law marriage is valid include whether the couple had a joint bank account, lived together the entire time, referred to each other as husband and wife, and/or raised children together.
These are some other questions that a judge will want to know the answers to before making a final decision.
If a couple in a common-law marriage breaks up, must they legally divorce?
Since common-law marriage is a legal union, then a couple must legally divorce if they no longer want to be together.
This is one reason why so many states are no longer recognizing common-law marriage – lawmakers often feel it’s an unnecessary use of resources for a common-law couple to divorce when the couple never exchanged vows or had their marriage recorded in the first place.
Instead of seeking proof that their common law marriage is valid, why not make it valid and obtain a license and have a ceremony?
Many common-law couples have never married formally because they don’t want to go through the hassle of obtaining a marriage license and having a ceremony.
However, if there ever comes a time when a couple needs to prove the validity of their common law marriage and they’re experiencing difficulty providing proof, some couples do actually do things the old-fashioned way and officially get married.
However, in some situations, a couple may not be eligible for certain benefits if their marriage wasn’t valid before a certain date, so marrying now wouldn’t help.
What must be done to be considered common-law spouses in South Carolina?
In order to have a common-law marriage recognized in the state of South Carolina, a couple must both be of sound mind and able to make decisions, they must live together, and they must also refer to each other as husband and wife.
Years ago, in some other states, it was necessary for couples to live together for approximately 10 years before a common-law marriage was recognized, but the state of South Carolina does not specify a time period in which a couple must live together.
Why wouldn’t a couple want to have a ceremony and have their marriage license filed and registered instead of being “common-law”?
Most couples who opt to get married want to have a big, memorable ceremony, and just the thought of registering their marriage license is exciting to them as it makes their marriage feel more real.
However, some couples prefer remaining as low-key as possible and they don’t want everyone involved in their union.
Every couple is different, and what is necessary and exciting to one couple may be senseless and unnecessary to another one.
Is common-law marriage recognized in Canada?
Common-law marriage is not recognized in any part of Canada, but there can be instances when parties may be eligible for benefits after the breakup of a long-term, live-in relationship.
A couple must meet certain criteria before either one can become eligible for certain benefits after the end of a relationship.
For instance, the couple must have lived together for two or three years, although this varies depending on the province they’re living in.
Does having a child make a difference in Canada when it comes to common-law marriages?
In certain provinces, if a couple lives together and has a child together, they are considered married under Canadian law.
However, if the couple splits up, then support may be ordered for both the child as well as the custodial parent.
Common-law marriage can be even more confusing in Canada, so for people planning to move there, if you’re interested in learning their common-law rules, then it’s a good idea.
Are common-law marriages recognized in Jamaica?
Yes, common-law marriage is recognized in Jamaica. A couple has to live together and act as a married couple for a minimum of five consecutive years in order to be considered legally married under Jamaica law.
However, you can’t move to Jamaica and live together for the required amount of time and then move back to the U.S. and expect your marriage to be recognized, because it will only be recognized in Jamaica.
Do couples have any rights if they break up in states where common-law marriages aren’t recognized?
Unless a couple is legally married with a marriage license on file in any state in the U.S., if a couple breaks up in a state where common law marriage isn’t recognized, they won’t have the same rights as legally married spouses would.
Their breakup would be treated like merely a girlfriend and boyfriend breaking up, but of course, if they have children together, then the custodial parent would be entitled to child support payments.
Common-law marriage is becoming less and less common than it was years ago for many reasons.
Not only are common-law marriages complicated and sometimes considered inefficient, but when a couple decides to divorce, it is often a costly and unnecessary process.
If you’re currently in a common-law marriage, you may want to check the laws on a regular basis to make sure you’re up to date with all the law changes and updates.