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Common-Law Marriage

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

307. Common-Law Marriage

307.1 What is a "common-law marriage?"

A "common-law marriage" is one in which neither a religious nor civil ceremony was held. In certain States, a common-law marriage may be entered into if a man and a woman agree to be married for the rest of their lives. Most States (even those in which a man and woman cannot enter into a valid common-law marriage) generally recognize a common-law marriage that has been validly entered into in another State.

307.2 What are the requirements for a valid common-law marriage?

The basic requirements for a valid common-law marriage (in addition to other requirements in some States) are that both parties must:

  1. Be legally capable of contracting a valid marriage with each other;

  2. Contract the marriage in a State that recognizes common-law marriages;

  3. Have the intent to be married;

  4. Consider themselves husband and wife; and

  5. Mutually agree to become husband and wife from that time on.

Last Revised: Feb. 6, 2003

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There are 8 Comments

We have no expertise in this area, but indications are that common law marriages are only recognized in Indiana if the marriage was entered into before January 1, 1958 :

IC 31-11-8-5
Common law marriages entered into after January 1, 1958
Sec. 5. A marriage is void if the marriage is a common law marriage that was entered into after January 1, 1958.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

Thus, to establish a valid common law marriage under Indiana law, Hazel must prove that she and Clyde met the requirements for a common law marriage before January 1, 1958.

I have been thinking about getting married.. but ive been told this might affect my monthly check from disabilty or may even cut it out all together..would someone please let me know about this.....? my email is p___y AT

I met my ex-husband in April, 1981.We moved in together in August, 1981.The landlord said we had to be Married to live in their House.We set a Wedding date on December 12th, 1981.And I remained cohabiting with him for the 4 months before the Wedding.

My Ex moved me 30 miles away from my Family,and would not let me get a Job or Car and controlled all Money .We had 3 boys and I felt trapped. With 2 of my Boys in school I advertised in Mid May of 1991 to do Daycare in our home. I got a 20 month old boy I watched for $50.00 a week.

On June 21st, 1991 I had a down payment to get a car. But my Ex refused to "COSIGN" for me. My Mother said she would and I GOT MY FREEDOM!! On July 5th, 1991 my Ex got a new camera,and told me to let him take "UNIMAGINABLE NUDE" pictures of me. I REFUSED!! He told me if I didn't it meant that I didn't LOVE him.I said "Let me take some of you 1st.

I grabbed the phone stuck it by the door, and then took A pictures of him.I then SMASHED the new camera that took instant pictures, grabbed the phone and ran out the door and down the street and called 911. While waiting I saw him putting his clothes and other personal items in the car. I told the Police what happened,and he agreed to LEAVE,and went to his Parents 30 miles away. Marriage Over!!

He got his Attorney,and on July 26th and we went to see her.(21 days later).I asked if I should get an Attorney,she said "He was being MORE THAN FAIR TO ME". (I didn't know at the time I was entitled to one to repersent me where my Ex had to pay.)On August 2nd, 1991 my Ex knew that I was out with my friends, 30 miles away and came back to my house and Burned all of my Clothes,Childhood Dairys,Photo Albums and Yearbooks from Grade school to High School. Bacically all the things I wanted to share in the future with my children!!

And then he took a shovel to everything,electronic,waterbed big screen tv.It was so bad my Family would not let me see all the Destruction and Damage! I found out that he had the right to do it because we had not had the "FINAL SIGNING' with HIS ATTORNEY"!! 4 days later on August 6th,was the final signing at his Attorney's,he came in "CRYING NO I DON"T WANT A DIVORCE".

His Attorney asked what happened to where I was really angry..I told her how he had TRASHED EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE!! Then she said she thought it was a wise decision to SIGN,and end the MARRIAGE!! The Divorce was final before the Judge on September 19th, 1991.Two years later my MOM called and said "If you would of stayed with him for less than 3 months I would have been entitled to his Social Security Benefits when he retired".

I then went to my Family Law book and saw where he had marked the page and found out this fact before the Divorce.(Hence I now know why it was so fast!)(76 days) So my Question is: Were we (AT THE TIME A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE) " Prior to more than 4 Months before the Wedding?? And was it recognized then?? And would I qualify?? Thank you for your time.

Please contact Social Security directly for your particular case.

The SSA states the following regarding common law marriage in Ohio :

Recognized before 10/10/91. To contract a common-law marriage before 10/10/91 the elements of a common-law marriage, which must be established by clear and convincing evidence, are: (1) a mutual contract to presently take each other as man and wife; (2) cohabitation as husband and wife; and (3) the treatment and reputation as being husband and wife in the community and circle in which the couple resides. A temporary stay by nonresidents is insufficient to establish a recognized common-law marriage. Common-law marriages established in Ohio on or after 10/10/91, are not recognized. Common-law marriages validly established in another State or nation at any time are recognized.

From this, it would seem that you would need "clear and convincing evidence" of your common-law marriage. For example, if you had a copy of your 1981 rental agreement which only allowed renting to "married couples" that should help.

I have been declared disabled but SSA refused me benefits because I live with my EX husband and we share kids/ grandkids.They say because we share family we are concerned REMARRIED and since he did not turn his back on me and let me move back in his money is my money.We were divorced in 1996 this is 2013 how could we have got divorced just to SCAM them ?
We live in different rooms ,We do not live as married,I just feel uncomfortable having someone else help me with daily care.He was willing to help with that.I can not live on my own cause I fall so much and can NOT get in and out of tub alone and need help with things like that. I am very week.
He has not made me pay nothing YET cause I have no way to get any money but IF they will help me I will be paying him back for living here and him helping me out and I will be paying for my own stuff,food clothes,ETC living ways part of the bills and rent.Till I get help I have no way to do this.Do they really expect me to live in the streets?I need medical care and am almost positive a tumor has turned to Cancer as I have gotten worse and find new tumors every day.P,lease help me.I dont want to be declared married just because someone was nice enough to help me and just cause I am friends with my EX husband,thats not fair at all.How do I fight them? I have lived here for over a year and he did claim me on taxes,he filed SINGLE with me as a dependent because thats what he was told to do by the Tax prepare. I did Not take back my maiden name in 1996 either but I didn't know I would be punished much later for this.We do cook meals separate,we do things separate.He has his friends I have mine.I do NOT preform WIFELY duties

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