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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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