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What is a common law marriage?

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Sep 13, 2005 | 0 Comments

In a handful of states (listed below), heterosexual couples can become legally married without a license or ceremony. This type of marriage is called a common law marriage. Contrary to popular belief, a common law marriage is not created when two people simply live together for a certain number of years.

In order to have a valid common law marriage, the couple must do all of the following:

  • live together for a significant period of time (not defined in any state)
  • hold themselves out as a married couple — typically this means using the same last name, referring to the other as “my husband” or “my wife,” and filing a joint tax return, and
  • intend to be married.

When a common law marriage exists, the spouses receive the same legal treatment given to formally married couples, including the requirement that they go through a legal divorce to end the marriage.

Copyright 2005 Nolo

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Ben is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocates. He is one of only four attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. To schedule a consultation with Ben Stevens call (864) 598-9172.

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