How To Know if Your Common-Law Marriage Is Legally Recognized

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Common-law marriage is not as common as many people believe. Living together does not mean you have a common-law marriage. There are strict requirements that have to be met for common-law marriages to be considered valid.

Additionally, only a few states in the United States recognize common-law marriages.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: varies

Here's How:

  1. Ascertain if the state/country you are living in recognizes common-law marriages. Only a few states plus the District of Columbia recognize common-law marriages.

    Currently, common-law marriages are recognized by: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island , South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington, D.C.


    1. Generally, there are four requirements for a valid common-law marriage. Just living together isn't enough to validate a common-law marriage.


    2. Requirement One:
      You must live together.


    3. Requirement Two:
      You must present yourselves to others as a married couple. Some ways of doing this are by using the same last name, referring to one another as husband or wife, and filing a joint tax return.


    4. Requirement Three:
      Although the time frame is not defined, you have to be together for a significant period of time.


    5. Requirement Four:
      You must intend to be married.


    6. In the U.S., the agreement by every state to recognize as valid a common-law marriage that was recognized in another state has been challenged by many states creating state laws not recognizing same sex marriages valid in other locales. It is best to consult an attorney to make sure your common-law marriage is recognized in the state where you are currently residing.


    1. Note:
      The Social Security Administration will only recognize your common-law marriage if the state where you reside recognizes your common-law marriage.

      To make sure that you would be eligible for survivor benefits, you need to go to a SSA office and fill out forms, provide statements from two blood relatives, and provide supporting evidence of your common-law relationship.


    1. Your Federal Income Tax, Publication 17:
      "Considered married. "You are considered married for the whole year if on the last day of your tax year you and your spouse meet any one of the following tests ... 2. You are living together in a common law marriage that is recognized in the state where you now live or in the state where the common law marriage began."
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    1. These states have restrictions and only recognize common-law marriages performed/created by a certain date:


    2. New Hampshire only recognizes common-law marriages for probate purposes.