How long until a couple is legally married?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

In order to determine the length of time it takes for a couple to be considered legally married, we need to understand the concept of common law marriage, also known as informal marriage. It is important to note that the laws regarding common law marriage vary from state to state in the United States.

Contrary to popular belief, simply living together for a certain period of time does not automatically result in a common law marriage. While the specific requirements may differ slightly depending on the state, there are generally two key factors that need to be met: cohabitation and holding out as a married couple.

Firstly, cohabitation refers to the couple living together in a domestic arrangement. This means sharing a physical residence and essentially living as a married couple. The duration of cohabitation required to establish a common law marriage can vary, but in most states, it is around one year. However, it is important to check the laws of your specific state, as some may have different time requirements.

The second requirement is that the couple must hold themselves out as a married couple. This means presenting themselves to others as if they are legally married. This can include using the same last name, introducing each other as spouses, or filing joint tax returns. It is crucial to note that this requirement is subjective and can vary depending on the circumstances and the state in which you reside.

It is essential to understand that not all states recognize common law marriage. As of 2021, only a handful of states still recognize it, including Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Each of these states has its own specific requirements and criteria for establishing a common law marriage.

In states where common law marriage is recognized, it is important to be aware that the legal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage also apply to common law marriages. This means that if a couple meets the requirements for a common law marriage, they will be entitled to the same legal protections and benefits as couples who are formally married.

It is worth noting that common law marriage can have both advantages and disadvantages. While it may provide legal benefits, such as inheritance rights or access to healthcare benefits, it can also result in legal complications if the relationship ends or if one of the partners passes away.

The length of time required for a couple to be considered legally married through common law marriage varies depending on the state. Living together for a certain period, usually around one year, and holding themselves out as a married couple are the key requirements. However, it is important to remember that not all states recognize common law marriage, and the laws and criteria can vary. It is always advisable to consult with a legal professional or research the specific laws in your state to fully understand your rights and obligations.