What is Common Law Marriage?
Surprisingly, common law marriage is more than just living with a significant other. In order for this type of marriage to be considered valid, you must first find out if your state even recognizes common law marriages and then see if you and your significant other meet the requirements.
In the United States, only Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Montana, Utah, Texas, and Washington, D.C. actually recognize common law marriages. The State of New Hampshire recognizes common law marriage for purposes of probate matters only and Utah recognizes common law marriages only if they have been validated by a court or administrative order.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not recognize common law marriages or even any duty to support an unmarried co-habitant. However, Massachusetts courts have applied equitable principles to resolve property disputes between former co-habiting individuals.
What are the requirements for a Common Law Marriage?
It varies state to state. If you currently reside in a state that recognizes common law marriages, you must refer to your state specific laws for details and requirements. Generally, the following must be established:
- You must live together.
- You must hold yourselves out the world as a married couple. (This can be done by using the same last name or referring to one another as husband or wife).
- You must reside together for a significant period of time established by your jurisdiction.
- You must intend to be married.
What about Social Security Benefits?
It is important to note that the Social Security Administration will only recognize your common-law marriage if the state where you reside recognizes your common-law marriage. In order to ensure 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.
Please remember that the information contained above is for informational purposes only. Before acting upon or making any decisions based upon the information contained within this page, you should first consult an experienced attorney