Common Law Marriage

Most everyone has heard the term “Common Law Marriage,” but few know what it means exactly. Common law marriage is a marriage that exists not because of a religious or civil ceremony, but by mutual agreement between a man and a woman by the fact of their cohabitation. Currently no state recognizes common law marriages between two people of the same sex.

Some states legally recognize common law marriages within their state. According to, Texas, Iowa, Montana, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas, Colorado, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia recognize common law unions.

Due to fraud, some states have abolished common law marriages. Some states have grandfathered in recognition for common law unions entered into before a certain date. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Idaho and Oklahoma are among the states that have such laws. In Pennsylvania, no common law marriages are valid if established after January 1, 2005. In the state of Utah the marriage must be validated by a court or other legal order.

A couple considered married under common law, in their state of residence, is considered married in all 50 states.

While it is simple to get into a common law marriage in those states mentioned, there is no such thing as a common law divorce. Once the marriage is legally established, a court order is required to dissolve the marriage.