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Common law marriage is not widely recognized as a form of marriage in the United States, it is recognized in one way or another in 10 states and the District of Columbia. There are five other states that recognize it with caveats. 

What states recognize common law marriage?

The following states and the Districut of Columbia currently recognize, in some fashion, common law marriage:

  • Colorado
  • Georgia (with restrictions)
  • Idaho (with restrictions)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (with restrictions)
  • Oklahoma (with restrictions)
  • Ohio (with restrictions)
  • Pennsylvania (with restrictions)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Same sex couples have the same right to enter into marriage, including common law marriage, as different-sex couples, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. If your state recognizes your common law marriage, the IRS will as well, so you can file your taxes jointly.

What qualifies as a common law marriage?

Not all states recognize common law marriage, and those that do have different standards and qualifications. In general, the most common requirements for both individuals include:

  • Legal age (in the state of marriage).
  • Of sound mind with the intent to be married.
  • Not married to someone else.
  • Living together.
  • Holding yourself out to friends and family as a married couple.

You can show proof of a common law relationship with a notarized affidavit or 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.

Is there such a thing as common law divorce?  

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 the same divorce process as legally married couples.

If you are not sure if your relationship qualifies as a common law marriage or if you have any other questions about marriage and divorce, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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