Common Law Marriage in California FAQ

Common Law Marriage FAQ

Common Law Marriage is not recognized in the state of California.
Learn what it is and where it's recognized.

What's Below:

If my partner and I live together long enough, won't we have a common law marriage?

Contrary to popular belief, even if two people live together for a certain number of years, if they don't intend to be married and present themselves to others as a married couple, there is no common law marriage. More particularly, a common law marriage can occur only when:

  • a heterosexual couple lives together in a state that recognizes common law marriages
  • for a significant period of time (not defined in any state)
  • holding themselves out as a married couple -- typically this means using the same last name, referring to the other as "my husband" or "my wife" and filing a joint tax return, and
  • intending to be married.

Unless all four are true, there is no common law marriage. When a common law marriage exists, the couple must go through a formal divorce to end the relationship.

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Which states recognize common law marriage?

Common law marriage is recognized only in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
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