What is Common Law Marriage?

There is no shortage of different types of families and domestic partnerships in the United States. One type of union that is not commonly recognized these days are common law marriages.

A common law marriage is a (possibly) legal union between two adults who have not purchased a marriage license or had an official marriage ceremony. This arrangement is recognized as legal in some states. In those states, a couple can be afforded the rights of a married couple even though they are not married.

Only a minority of states recognize common law marriage, and that list has decreased over the decades. But, like any other marriage, sometimes things don’t work out in a common law marriage. Does divorce apply to a common law marriage? And does Michigan even recognize common law marriages?

Does Michigan Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Even if you and your partner have been living together in a romantic and domestic relationship for many years, you will still be considered unmarried under Michigan law. If you and your romantic partner wish to be wed, you must purchase a marriage license and have some form of marriage ceremony.

However, it was not always this way in Michigan. And those who were in common law marriages where such unions were legally recognized before they came to Michigan may also have marital rights.

When Was Common Law Marriage Abolished in Michigan?

Common law marriage used to be recognized in Michigan. Under the old law, if any partnership wished to present themselves as a married couple to others, then the law would treat them as such.

Under the old understanding of common law marriage laws in Michigan, the relationships that did not work out would end in divorce proceedings the same as any other married couple.

In 1957, common law marriage was abolished by newly written Michigan statutes. After 1957, no domestic partnership would be recognized as a common law marriage. If a partnership wishes to be considered a married couple, they must obtain a marriage license and have some form of wedding ceremony.

However, any common law marriages that were created before 1957 would still be considered valid and legal in the state of Michigan. Thus, if you were in a common law marriage anytime before 1957 and that marriage ended in a breakup, you would need to go through divorce proceedings the same as any other marriage.

Which States Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Only a minority of states recognize common law marriage these days. And among those that do, several of them have certain stipulations in place about which the partnerships should be considered common law marriages.

States that recognize common law marriage in 2023 include the following:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia (provided the relationship began sometime before January 1st, 1997)
  • Idaho (provided the relationship began sometime before January 1st, 1996)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (But it only applies to inheritance).
  • Ohio (Provided the relationship began prior to October 10th, 1991)
  • Oklahoma (common law marriages are complicated in Oklahoma. Please speak with an attorney)
  • Pennsylvania (only so long as the relationship began prior to January 1st, 2005)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Other states previously had common law marriage, but have since abolished the law. To learn more about common law marriage and whether your partnership qualifies, please contact our experienced family law attorneys.

What if You Were in a Valid Common Law Marriage and Moved to Michigan?

If you were in a common law marriage in a state that recognizes the legal validity of such marriages, Michigan courts may be forced to consider the legality of your marriage after you move to our state. However, this is not a simple and straightforward matter, as certain requirements must be met before a Michigan family law court will consider an out-of-state common law marriage as valid in Michigan.

Among the factors that must be met in order for family law courts in Michigan to recognize out-of-state common law marriages are the following:

  • The two people must have lived in some kind of cohabitation in a state jurisdiction that recognizes common law marriages.
  • The states from which the partnership originated must have clearly defined common law marriage requirements.
  • There must be a date provided that states when the common law marriage began or was officially recognized in the state of origin.

If a common law marriage was recognized in an out-of-state jurisdiction prior to moving to Michigan, our state laws could potentially consider your common law marriage as legal in our state. As a legally recognized marriage, if the marital union ends in a dissolution of marriage, then both parties would be forced to undergo Michigan divorce proceedings.

For a better understanding of Michigan’s common law marriage requirements for those moving from out of state, please contact our legal group to discuss your case. Our law firm has years of experience representing clients in complex family law matters, including divorce and the complexities of common law marriages. We would be proud to represent your interest in these family law issues.

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) proudly serves clients in complicated legal matters across the state of Michigan. Our law firm is well-versed in Michigan marriage laws and the complicated nature of out-of-state common law marriages. If your marriage unfortunately ends in divorce, we can help provide legal representation whether your marriage was of the typical variety or a common law marriage.

As mentioned, common law marriages are not recognized under Michigan law unless under certain circumstances. We will help you understand these exceptions so that you are clear about your legal rights.

For a free consultation with our legal team, please contact us at (248) 290-6675.