What You Need to Know about Common Law Marriage and Divorce

Couples are considered married once they decide to spend the rest of their lives forever in front of a judge or an officiating priest or pastor. A lot of couples look forward to getting married as this means their relationship is now considered legal. Along with getting married, they have the option to conjoin their properties and assets and bear legitimate children.

Unfortunately, not all married couples end up happily. In fact, a lot of married couples decide to hire divorce lawyers and end their marriage for good. Divorce can be a tedious process and both parties should mutually agree on child support, alimony, and property and asset distribution. In such cases, child support lawyers and spousal support lawyers can provide legal support to the soon-to-be-ex couple.

Meanwhile, there are also a lot of couples who apparently don’t believe in marriage. Perhaps one of the major reasons for their decision not to marry, even if they are already living together under one roof, is because they want to avoid the cost implications of divorce in case it does happen in the future.

These couples believe that as long as they have been living together for a long time like married couples do, they are already considered married. If you and your partner are in this kind of setup, you are considered under common-law marriage. What are the implications of being in a common-law marriage? Is this even legal? What happens when you and your common-law spouse decides to “divorce”?

All about common-law marriage

It is usually accepted that if a couple lives together and even have children but are not legally married, you are considered common-law married. In case you are not familiar with this set-up, common-law marriage is a thing and in fact, allowed in some states. Common requirements that will consider you and your partner as common-law married include the following:

  • Both of you should be at the minimum allowable marrying age as per your state’s age requirement
  • Both of you consider yourselves married to each other
  • Both of you act as if legally married (ex. have joint bank accounts, conjugal properties, declared legal parents of your children, etc.)

Some consider themselves common-law married if they have been living together for five, 10, or more years. However, there is no exact period that dictates how long you must live together before you are considered common-law married. This is because such kind of requirement may vary from state to state.

What if common-law spouses decide to “divorce”?

For one thing, you cannot simply pack your bags and end your relationship that easily just because you are technically not married. In some states where common-law marriage is allowed, you would still have to hire divorce lawyers in the event of a divorce.

In other words, common-law spouses would still have to undergo the same divorce process. This includes alimony, child custody and support, and property division. In such cases, you would have to hire professional family lawyers to handle your divorce case. You and your partner would have to agree on specified financial assistance, child visitation schedule, and which parent the child lives with.

What if you are common-law married and you decide to divorce in another state?

For example, you and your partner began a relationship and eventually lived together in Texas where common-law marriages are allowed. Later on, you moved to another state, say, in California, where common-law marriage is not recognized.

Then one day, you and your partner decide to end your relationship for good. Can they be divorced in California if they are not considered married there? This can be quite a tricky situation because you would have to prove to a California judge that you are indeed considered “married” in Texas.

You would have to show documents like bank accounts and even call witnesses from Texas to validate that both of you considered yourselves “married” to each other while in your previous state. Divorcing as a common-law spouse in a state where it is not recognized can be quite a hassle, so make sure to do the aforementioned tips before calling top-rated divorce lawyers who will help handle your case.


Whether legally married or common-law married, the divorce process is both applicable to both marital status. But for the latter, it can be a little more complicated when they do decide to part ways for good. For your legal concerns, you can hire the best divorce lawyers in Alexandria VA.

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