Entering Into A Common-Law Marriage


Last week we discussed what a common-law marriage entails, but how do you enter into one?

If You Would Like To Enter A Common-Law Marriage You Must Be:

  • over 18;
  • marrying someone of the opposite sex;
  • not related to your future spouse;
  • not currently married.

More Requirements When Entering A Common-Law Marriage

Nobody under the age of 18 may enter into an informal marriage, even with parental approval. Besides being over 18, you cannot be relatives by consanguinity. Couples of the informal marriage may be same-sex since becoming legal for every state in 2015. You can read more about the  Obergefell v. Hodges decision here. Finally, both parties must be single. This means, that if one person is already in a marriage, he or she must divorce his or her spouse whether the marriage is common-law or not. It is not possible for one person to have two or more spouses in any form.

The most straightforward way to enter into a common-law marriage is to sign a declaration of marriage at the county clerk’s office. But, that is not necessary. You can move in together, and behave as a husband and wife would, inferring a common-law marriage agreement.

What If I Want To Move To A Different State?

Not all states recognize common-law marriage. Your marriage will stand in Texas but not if you move to a new state that does not honor informal marriages. Consider this possibility when entering into a common-law marriage. Find a list of states allowing informal marriages here.

To avoid a common-law marriage, the best thing to do is draw up a contract with a lawyer stating that while you live with this person, you wish to remain single. With a contract in place, you can live with a significant other without ever becoming spouses. Keeping bank accounts separate, filing separate tax returns, and of course, not referring to your partner as a spouse, will keep you single!

Further Reading:

Pro Se Resources-Common Law Marriage

The Statesman

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