How Marriage Works

More on Common Law Marriages

Common law marriage within the United States is legally recognized in:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Common law marriage is legally recognized in five states under a grandfather clause. This means that the common law marriage must have formed prior to a certain date defined by that state:

  • Georgia - union declared prior to January 1, 1997
  • Idaho - union declared prior to January 1, 1996
  • Ohio - union declared prior to October 10, 1991
  • Oklahoma - union declared prior to November 1, 1998
  • Pennsylvania - union declared prior to January 1, 2005

Common law marriage is allowed only for inheritance purposes in New Hampshire.

Finally, though a couple who has a common law marriage doesn't have a marriage license or certificate, they still must go through the legal process of obtaining a divorce in order to end their marriage.

For more information about marriage and other related topics, please check out the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • "About Marriage Licenses." Hawaii State Department of Health.
  • "About Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationships." Hawaii State Department of Health.
  • "Domestic Partners Registry." California Secretary of State.
  • "Common Law Marriage." National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • "Domestic Partnership FAQ." District of Columbia Department of Health.,a,3,q,573324,dohNav_GID,1787,dohNav,%7C33110%7C33120%7C33139%7C.asp#6
  • "Domestic Partner Registry." Office of Health Data and Program Management.
  • "Marriage." Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Nov 11, 2005.
  • "Marriage and Divorce Data." U.S. Census Bureau. January 31, 2007.
  • "Get the Facts on Marriage." Marriage Equality USA.
  • "Marriage Rights and Benefits."
  • "New Jersey governor signs civil unions into law." The Associated Press. Dec. 21, 2006.
  • "Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2001." Household Economic Studies. February 2005.
  • "Domestic Partnership." NYC Marriage Bureau.
  • "Living the Principle: Inside Polygamy." The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • "Polygamy." The Sale Lake Tribune.
  • "Marriage Laws of the Fifty States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico." Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School.
  • "The Vermont Guide to Civil Unions." Vermont Secretary of State. August 2006.
  • "Wedding Traditions and Customs."
  • "Get Busy. Get Equal: Frequently Asked Questions about California Domestic Partnerships." ACLU.
  • "The Mavens' Word of the Day." Random House.
  • "Jumping the Broom." African Wedding Guide.
  • Acs, Gregory and Nelson, Sandi. "What Do "I Do"s Do? Potential Benefits of Marriage for Cohabiting Couples with Children." Urban Institute. May 24, 2004.
  • Compton, Todd M. "The Four Major Periods of Mormon Polygamy." The Signature Books Library.
  • Larson, Aaron. "Marriage Law." August 2003.
  • Miller, Marshall and Solot, Dorian. "Common Law Marriage Fact Sheet." Alternatives to Marriage Project. August 2006.
  • Murray, Shailagh. "Gay Marriage Amendment Fails in Senate." The Washington Post. June 8, 2006.
  • Shulman, Andy. "Guide to the Jewish Wedding." Aish HaTorah.