What Is A Common Law Marriage?

A small minority of states allow the creation of marriage by common law. A common law marriage is one in which there is no ceremony or marriage license. The parties must be capable of contracting and generally be of the opposite gender. A common law marriage requires an actual agreement by the two people to act as husband and wife. This agreement may be by words or conduct. In addition there must also be a holding on to of the marital status. This means the parties must represent themselves to others as married to each other, such as using the same name, calling each other husband or wife, opening joint accounts or contracting joint debt, filing a joint tax return, etc.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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