Common Law Marriage
There are couples that wish to have legally recognized relationships other than a marriage. Although not sharing the same laws, procedures and benefits of a marriage, the commitment is often the same. In addition to civil unions and domestic partnerships is the common-law marriage.
A common-law marriage is one where the couple lives together for a certain period of time and represent themselves to the public (friends, family, etc.) that they are married. This form of marriage is also distinguishable as it doesn’t involve obtaining a marriage license or going through a formal marriage ceremony. Although similar to other types of interpersonal statuses, it is often mistaken as being the same as domestic partnerships, civil unions and registered partnerships.
A much often misconception about the formation of common law marriages is that “time together” is the key element. This unfortunately is far from the truth.
There are currently ten U.S. states that allow common-law marriages to be formed and recognized in the state and a handful of others that previously permitted these marriages to be formed legally. Interestingly, the ten states have no time requirement, but in fact, rely upon other factors to establish and prove the marriage.
So, the moral of the story is, living together for any amount of time, whether 2 or 20 years doesn’t establish a valid marriage.