You Mean I’m Married?
About Common Law or “Informal” Marriage
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “common law marriage” but you’re unsure as to what that means. Also called an informal marriage, this type of union means that two individuals are recognized by their state as being legally married. This is the case even without the couple having formally registered to be considered as being in a civil or religious marriage.
But wait! Informal Marriage doesn’t apply to partners in every state.
We Live Together: Are We Married?
Just because you’ve lived with your partner for an extended period of time does not necessarily mean you’re involved in a common law marriage. Most states that recognize common law marriage have common requirements for couples. Those requirements include:
- You must live together (length of time can vary by state)
- You must both have the legal right to be married
- You must intend to be married
- You must hold yourself out to friends or family as being a married couple
What do you mean by “legal right” to be married?
Great question. If you both have the legal right or the legal capacity to be married, then you’re both of legal marrying age in your state (this can vary) you’re both of sound mind, and finally, neither of you is married to someone else.
How do I “hold myself out” to be married?
Another great question! Many couples that are together for a long time may take the same last name, refer to one another publically as husband or wife, carry joint credit cards or establish a joint checking account. These are all ways in which you may be holding yourself out to friends and family as being a married couple, though you may not have had an official event to “tie the knot”.
Does my state recognize common law marriage?
Only a small handful of states currently recognize common law marriage. They include:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
Be sure to educate yourself on the statutes of your particular state regarding common law marriage.