Common Law Marriage FAQ

Learn what common law marriage is and in what states it's recognized.

Which states allow common law marriage?

These are the only states that allow couples to create a common law marriage:

Alabama
Colorado
District of Columbia
Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
Iowa
Kansas
Montana
New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Texas
Utah

Can I change my name if my marriage is common law?

Yes, anyone can do a name change. In theory, most states allow you to legally change your name by usage only -- meaning that you simply start using your new name without any court action, and at no cost.

However, practically speaking, because you don't have a marriage certificate, you will need an official court order changing your name before you'll get government agencies and many private companies, such as banks and title companies, to accept your new name.

More Information

To learn more about getting your name legall changed, check out Nolo's Name Change section. For more information on how unmarried couples can document their relationship, see Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples, by Ralph Warner, Toni Ihara, and Frederick Hertz (Nolo).

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