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Are There Any Benefits to Common Law Marriage?

About the author:

While she had a solid education in law, Lynda King wanted more than a job as a lawyer. She knew that people needed information and a better understanding of everyday legal matters, so she began writing articles and guidelines to educate individuals and businesses. Now, Lynda is collaborating with Farzad & Ochoa Family Law Attorneys, being proud that her knowledge and writing talent are helping everyone every day.

Are There Any Benefits to Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage is a controversial framework. Only a few states in the U.S. recognize it, and the requirements differ between states. Couples who follow this route can enjoy a set of benefits, like property division, alimony, or social security benefits in certain conditions.

What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage is a legal framework that allows a couple to enjoy a set of benefits of marriage without having a marriage license or going through the ceremony. However, there are a set of conditions to qualify:

  • The couple has to live together for some time.
  • Both partners must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Also, neither of them should be involved in another marriage.
  • The couple should present themselves as being married to family, friends, and the entire community. They can achieve this through terminology by calling each other “husband” and “wife” or “spouses.” Another way to prove this is through joint property, shared bank accounts or filing joint tax returns.

There are only a few states that recognize common law marriage. In the state of California, things are a bit more complicated. While the framework is not usually accepted, there are some exceptions to the rule.

In California common law marriage may be recognized if a common law married couple from another state or country moves to California. Although, generally relationships that occurred outside of the U.S. will not be established as common law marriages. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is contact a California lawyer who specializes in this field and trust them to find a solution for you.


There are a set of benefits that entice people to get a common law marriage. Keep in mind that these benefits are also influenced by state law. To find out exactly what can apply to you, contact a lawyer specialized in this field. Here are some of the main possible benefits:

Property Division

Division of property depends under whose name it is found. Property acquired by one partner will continue to be owned by them. However, property held in the name of both spouses belongs to both of them.


This is a legal obligation of one of the spouses to offer financial support to their partner, following separation. The benefit is often awarded when the couple had a long-lasting relationship. It is also commonly received if one of the spouses has given up a career for life together.

Therefore, if you quit your job to take care of your children, keep up house maintenance, and handle other household issues you have a good shot at receiving spousal support. Alimony is governed by the family law of each state. Make sure to learn more about the specific legislation that applies to your case.

Social Security Benefits

A common law spouse can be eligible for some social security benefits if the state requirements for the legal framework are met. This also depends on the earning records of their partner. Social Security Administration (SSA) decides valid marriage agreements based on state law. So make sure that you contact a lawyer to clarify your legal positioning on the matter.

Inheritance Rights

Common law spouses are not exempt from inheritance tax. This means that common law married couples cannot leave their property and assets to their partner without paying a certain amount in taxes. The presence of a will is very important in simplifying the process after the death of a partner.

Depending on the state, if the deceased spouse has left property and assets to the surviving spouse, they still have to pay a certain percentage of the inheritance value if the value exceeds a certain amount.

Contact a Legal Expert

To have a better picture of the prospect of common law marriage in your state and the benefits you can enjoy, contact a lawyer. They know how the law would apply to your case and can give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.