Three Myths About Common Law Marriage

Dec 02, 2014
by Adler Markoff & Associates

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    Three Myths About Common Law Marriage

    It is probably safe to assume most people are familiar with the term ‘common law marriage’, but understanding what this means in different states can be quite complicated. Many people assume that common law marriage is legal and recognized in all 50 states, but this is not the case. In fact, there is a distinct difference between cohabitation and common law marriage that should be discussed in order to better understand both terms. Several specific actions must take place before you will be legally considered ‘common law married’, and common law marriages are only recognized by the following states:

    • District of Columbia
    • Alabama
    • Colorado
    • Georgia (if created before January 1, 1997)
    • Idaho (if created before January 1, 1996)
    • Iowa
    • Kansas
    • Montana
    • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
    • New Mexico
    • Oklahoma
    • Pennsylvania (if created before January 1, 2005)
    • Rhode Island
    • South Carolina
    • Texas
    • Utah

    The bottom line is that it is important to be familiar with your state’s common law marriage stipulations. It should also be noted that couples who are married under common law will most likely have their marriage recognized by states that do not officially allow these types of unions. Because of the complicated nature of common law marriages, it is recommended that you contact an Oklahoma attorney to go over your particular case in more detail.

    Below we will go over three of the most common myths associated with common law marriages.

    Myth #1: Living together does not translate to a common law marriage. While the overall requirements for common law marriage differ from state to state, cohabitation is one of the most important elements. With this, if a couple lives together and refers to themselves amongst others as ‘husband and wife’, they may be considered common law married.

    Myth #2: Any property purchased together by a common law couple must be split equally in the event of separation. When a couple stops living together, any property will belong to the registered owner. Because of this, it may be a good idea to consider buying property under a co-ownership agreement. This means that both partners will be equal owners and benefit from the home’s increased value.

    Myth #3: If a common law couple has a child together, they must adopt him or her. Common law parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities as parents who are legally married. This means that common law parents do not have to pursue an adoption if they acknowledge the children as their own.

    Common law marriages can be complicated, which is why it is important to use the expertise and services of an Oklahoma lawyer. Unfortunately a single test cannot determine whether or not a couple is common law married and there are numerous misconceptions about these types of unions that should be addressed. To learn more about how Oklahoma views common law marriage, please contact us today.


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    (405) 607-8757