Common Law Marriage Basics From a Family Law Attorney in Omaha, NE

A common law marriage results from a couple’s actions, in spite of the fact that they haven’t fulfilled their state’s requirements or gotten a marriage license. If a couple lives together (cohabitates) for a long period (a year or longer), and has held themselves out to be husband and wife, it can be considered a common law marriage in some areas.

Common law marriages are not allowed in every state. For instance, Michigan eliminated the common law marriage statue, and no cohabitation period results in marriage. However, if a couple has a common law marriage in one state, it will be recognized in states with no such laws because of the US Constitution’s “full faith and credit” rule.

Because of these different state laws, actions resulting in common law marriages in one state might not offer any legal protection or rights in another state. In some states, common law spouses can get spousal support or a share of a marital estate. However, in states that don’t recognize common law marriage, partners cannot claim joint assets titled in the other partner’s name, and they cannot receive alimony.

In states where cohabitation cannot result in marriage, partners have no legal right to dictate treatment in the event of a catastrophe, and may not even be able to visit them in the hospital. Non-married spouses cannot inherit property unless they are specifically named in their partner’s estate plan or will. In cases such as these, you should hire a Family Law Attorney in Omaha, NE and become acquainted with your state’s requirements to get your relationship legally recognized.

States with Common Law Marriage

In states allowing common law marriage, once legal requirements have been met, the relationship is treated just like any other marriage–and must be ended in a formal divorce. The following states (and DC) recognize common law marriages:






Rhode Island


South Carolina



Some states allow common law marriages if the legal elements were fulfilled before a certain time. These states are: Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Nebraska, couples should consult Gnuse and Green Law Offices P.C. on how to best legitimize their relationship.