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Common Law

Understanding Common Law Marriage: States, Rights & Insights

Common law marriage stands as a testament to the evolving nature of relationships in the modern era. Essentially, it refers to a legal framework in which a couple who lives together for an extended period is seen as legally married, even if they haven’t gone through the traditional ceremonies or acquired a marriage license. Notably, only certain states in the U.S. recognize this status, conferring upon such couples the same rights and duties as those officially wedded. However, like all marriage arrangements, common-law marriage has its advantages and disadvantages.

states that fully recognize common law marriage

State Fully Recognizing Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage isn’t universally recognized. Among the states that do recognize it are:

1. Colorado:  Requires couples to live together openly and display a shared intent to be viewed as married.

2. Iowa: Aside from cohabitation, couples should publicly present themselves as married.

3. Kansas: Age and cohabitation are crucial; both parties must be 18 and live together, presenting themselves as spouses.

4. Montana: Like Colorado, it’s about intention and cohabitation.

5. New Hampshire: While cohabitation is necessary, public representation as a married couple is also vital.

6. South Carolina: Public perception and personal intent to be married are primary.

7. Texas: Couples should agree to be married, live as spouses, and be represented as such.

Benefits Of Common Law Marriage

Opting for a common-law marriage comes with a series of benefits:

» Community Property: Akin to formal marriage, couples enjoy legal rights like healthcare benefits, hospital visitation rights, the right to make emergency medical decisions, access to personal records, rights in property division upon separation, child custody rights, spousal support rights, inheritance rights, and tax deductions.

» Simplicity: Without the complexities of wedding preparations and paperwork, the process is streamlined.

Disadvantages Of Common Law Marriage

Along with the advantages of a common-law marriage, there are also some disadvantages:

» Proof Of Marriage: Unlike traditional marriages with a paper trail, common law marriages offer no inherent presumption of marriage, making rights uncertain.

» Lack Of Public Record: Since there’s no formal record, couples might find it challenging to prove their marital status.

» Divorce Complications: Before separation proceedings can even commence, couples need to prove they were, in essence, ‘married’.

» Risk Of No Legal Protection: If one partner denies the existence of the marriage, the other might be left vulnerable and without entitlements, especially if there is no shared intention to be married or if one partner dies without a will.


While common law marriages offer couples a way to be recognized as married without formal procedures, it’s not without its challenges. It’s crucial for couples considering this route to understand the implications fully, ensuring they’re protected legally and personally. Knowledge is power, and in matters of the heart and law, it’s always best to be prepared.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced family lawyers takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Our experienced team of attorneys is prepared to consult with you regarding any questions related to family law matters. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. We understand the financial burden a family law matter can have on an individual. As such we have created our industry-first SimpleStart™ program, providing people a chance to reduce the amount of money needed upfront to start their case. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By: MFL Team

Posted October 03, 2023

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