What is a ‘common law marriage?’

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What is a ‘common law marriage?’

Traditionally, when a man and a woman lived together and held themselves out to the world as husband and wife for a certain period of time (such as 7 or 14 years), the law of the state in which they resided recognized them as husband and wife despite the lack of the formal legalities of marriage.

Most states no longer recognize common law marriages. However, if a couple meets the requirements for a common law marriage in a state that does recognize common law marriages, and the couple then moves to a state that does not have common law marriages, the new state will usually recognize the “common law” marriage. For example, if a couple lived in Texas, a state recognizing common law marriage, and met the requirements for a common law marriage, and then moved to California, which does not recognize common law marriage, California will recognize the couple as being married.

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