While you have probably heard about common-law marriages, you may not know much more than that they exist. At the Dorris Law Group in Tucson, we are well-versed in the legal details associated with common-law marriages. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the definition, cover the states that recognize them, and look at a few more interesting facts and details. While we hope this never happens to you, if you ever find yourself in a position where you need to pursue a divorce, we can help you navigate the legal details and differences that apply to a common-law marriage.

What Is It?

A common-law marriage is the framework in which a couple is legally considered married, without having formally registered their relationship in a civil court or a religious marriage ceremony. Essentially, the fact that the couple presents themselves to others as being married, has lived together for a period of time, or has organized their relationship as if they were indeed married, acts as evidence that they are married.  

A Brief History of Common-Law Marriage

In the United States, the history of common-law marriage dates back to 1877 and is still observed today in one form or another in 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia. There are an additional five states which recognize common-law marriage with certain restrictions. The three most common requirements for most states are as follows:

  1. The couple must live together
  2. They must meet the requirements for capacity to marry:
  • 18 years old (varies by state)
  • Of sound mind
  • Not married to someone else
  1. The couple must intend to be married and hold themselves out to friends and family as being married through taking the same last name, referring to each other as husband, wife, or spouse in public, and holding joint bank accounts or credit cards. 

Which States Recognize Common-Law Marriages?

If you intend to have a common-law marriage, it is important to know which states recognize it, and which ones recognize it with some restrictions. Within the state of Arizona, common-law marriages are not recognized, however, they are recognized if the marriage was validly contracted in other jurisdictions which do recognize them. That being said, we will provide the list of states that recognize common-law marriages. 

The following is a list of the states that fully recognize common-law marriages:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas (referred to as informal marriage)
  • Utah
  • District of Columbia

The next list includes the states with limited recognition of common-law marriages:

  • Georgia (if created before January 1, 1997)
  • Idaho (if created before January 1, 1996)
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
  • Oklahoma (if created before November 1, 1998)
  • Ohio (if created before October 10, 1991)
  • Pennsylvania (if created before January 1, 2005) 

As you can see, common-law marriages are still neither widely, nor completely recognized. If you are living in Tucson in a common-law marriage and you need to speak with a lawyer about divorce proceedings, then please call The Dorris Law Group. We are here to provide the legal counsel and assistance you need when wish to pursue a common-law divorce. Call our offices today to speak with a divorce attorney in Tucson.