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The definition of "common law" marriage is an agreement between two people to be married, but do not go through the traditional ceremonial marriage with witnesses and an officient.
Arizona does not recognize the creation of a common law marriage within its jurisdiction and now only the following states recognize the creation of common law marriages within their jurisdiction:
AlabamaColoradoDistrict of ColumbiaGeorgia (if created before 1/1/97)Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)IowaKansasMontanaNew Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)OklahomaPennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaTexasUtah
In order to establish a common law marriage it must be entered into in a jurisdiction which still allows that type of union. There is no set time limit in which the parties must live together before a common law marriage arises; however, both parties must have a presnet intention of entering a common law marriage, they must manifest such present intention by holding themselves out to the world as husband and wife, must introduce themselves as husband and wife, and conduct their affairs as husband and wife such as having joint bank accounts, taking title to property as huband and wife, file joint income tax returns and show similar indications as would a husband and wife who had entered a marriage in the conventional ceremonial manner.
It is important to remember that both parties must have the same intention; where only one of the parties intends for a common law marriage to be created, but the other party does not have a similar intent, no common law marriage is created.
Once they have established a common law marriage in a jurisdiction which allows the creation of common law marriages, they can travel to other states and they will still be recognized as husband and wife. Additionally, because the parties are now husband and wife, if they no longer wish to be married, they have to obtain a divorce just as those who entered a conventional marriage.
I hope this information is hepful. If you need further clarification on common law marriages, please do not hesitate to let m know and I will clarify.
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ANDREA, JD, LL.M., Taxation
Member, NY & PA Bar
DISCLAIMER: The facts stated herein are information only and are not intended, nor should be construed as legal advice or legal opinion and No Attorney-Client relationship is formed by asking questions and receiving information; laws vary from state to state and to protect your interests, you should seek local counsel
So if the two parties agree to a common law union, then how do they open a bank account, or share property as joint owner. Does the woman then sign his last name as her legal name? How do you get your SS card changed? They ask for documentation.
Is a car property? or is it real estate only. When yo go to open a bank account now, they ask for your SS card. So do you sign in the married name or your current name with him.
If you live in Arizona, you will not be able to enter a legal common law marriage. You must be residents of a state which recognize the formation of common law marriages (A resident of one of the states which I listed above).
So, if you were residents of a state which permits formation of a common law marriage, then you would tell anyone who asked for documentation that you are common law husband and wife and do not have any documentation. However, Texas, for example, requires that a common law husband and wife sign in the Court Clerk's Office as such; so if you resided in Texas, you would furnish documentation from the Clerk's Office.
Things like bank accounts, utility bills, etc. do not generally require documentation of marriage.
It is important to remember that although none of the formalities are necessary to form a common law marriage, if you later decide to dissolve the union, a conventional divorce is required.
ANDREA, JD, LLM
Member, NY & PA Bar
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