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Common Law Marriage States

Common Law Marriage States
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Introduction

Common-law marriage remains a legally nuanced and culturally complex institution in the United States. Simplistically defined, a common-law marriage is a form of irregular marriage where a couple, living together and portraying themselves as married to the world, are considered legally married, despite not having a formal wedding or court acknowledgment. This arrangement, dating back to colonial America's grueling conditions, exists today in varying capacities across select states in the U.S. The 

  • The number of U.S. states fully recognizing common-law marriage can be counted on two hands. The states of Colorado, Texas, Montana, Utah, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and New Hampshire extend recognition to common-law unions. 
  • A handful of states, such as Alabama, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, have 'Previously Allowed' common-law marriages. This means common-law marriages entered into before a certain date in these states are lawfully acknowledged, but no new such relationships are recognized. 
  • The vast majority of states, including populous ones such as California, New York, and Michigan, among others, do not allow common-law marriages. 
  • Importantly, in the states where common-law marriage is currently allowed, the couple must meet specific criteria - living together for an extended period, portraying themselves as a married couple, and intending to be married.

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