Reviewed by Carmina Tessitore

Carmina Tessitore

One alternative to traditional marriage is what some states refer to as a common law marriage. While a common law marriage isn't technically a marriage since there is no valid marriage license nor recognized marriage ceremony, as an interpersonal status it's still recognized in some states for heterosexual couples. You can show proof of a common law relationship with a notarized affidavit, Domestic Partnership Agreement, laying out how long you and your partner have lived together, where you lived, any public announcement of common law marriage, and any previous marriages.

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In some states, cohabitation is not enough to qualify you and your partner for a common law marriage: you and your partner must behave like spouses and be qualified to enter a marriage (for example, you must both be of legal age).  The IRS recognizes common-law marriages, so you can file your taxes jointly. You and your partner can even use the same last name. However, in the US, no state recognizes same-sex common-law marriages (although some states do recognize same-sex marriages, including Connecticut).  

States that recognize heterosexual common law marriages are Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only), Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Other states recognize common law marriages that were notarized before a certain date: Georgia (pre-1997) Idaho (pre-1996) Ohio (pre-1991) Pennsylvania (pre-2005).

While some states may legally recognize common law marriage, there’s no such thing as a common law divorce: couples with valid common law marriages have to go through same divorce process as legally married couples.

As for my homestate of Connecticut, neither cohabitation nor common law marriage is legally recognized.

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About Carmina Tessitore

Carmina Tessitore is focused on the practice of family and matrimonial law, civil matters, foreclosure, business law, and mediation services. Her mission is to provide excellence in service and quality, tailored to the unique circumstances of each client’s matter.