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A common law marriage is one in which a heterosexual couple fulfills the requirements of a legal marriage without a license or ceremony. Common law is not as common as popular belief would have it, however. In order to have a common law marriage, a couple need more than just live together for a specified period of time . They must also identify themselves as a married couple (for example, by using the same last name, referring to one another as husband and wife, or filing a joint tax return) and intend to be married.
Once a common law marriage is established between two people, the state officially recognizes the union and the couple receives the same legal treatment as formally married couples. This means a couple wishing to end their common law marriage must obtain a legal divorce .
States Recognizing Common Law Marriage
Not all states recognize common law marriages. The following states permit common law marriages:
The following states recognize common law marriages established before specific dates :
Because laws governing marriage and divorce vary from state-to-state, a common law marriage established in one state may not receive the same legal recognition in another.
For instance, in a state that recognizes common law marriage, a spouse may be entitled to share in the marital estate and even to spousal support. This may not hold true, however, if the couple relocates to a state that does not regard common law marriage as valid.
If you have a common law marriage and are considering divorce, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified divorce attorney who can help you understand your legal rights. Contact us for a FREE consultation with a divorce attorney experienced in common law marriages.
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