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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:
District of Columbia
Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
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
Edited by Andrea on 11/12/2009 at 6:49 PM EST