Living Together 7 Years = Common Law Married?

wedding_ring_421photo by adactio

Our friend Robin Epstein and her sister Amy Epstein Feldman just wrote a hilarious (not to mention helpful) book called So Sue Me, Jackass! Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work, at Home, and at Play. Over the past three weeks, we’ve published excerpts answering questions like “Can you get sued if you break someone’s penis during sex?” and “If you get married while drunk, does it count?” This week we’ll learn about common law marriage — is it real or just an urban myth? Stay tuned for one final excerpt next week.

Q: My best friend and her boyfriend, let’s call him “Peter Pan,” have been living together for ten years but he won’t propose because (1) commitment scares him and (2) he’s a yutz who won’t grow up. But my friend says she doesn’t mind because they’ve lived together for seven years so now they’re “common law married” anyway. Is that right?

A: Um, no. But it’s a good question because it turns out “common law marriage” is not what most people think. To enter a common law marriage, you must first be eligible to be married—that is, neither party is a minor or married to someone else. You must express words in the present tense—“we are husband and wife”—not “we’ll be together in the future” or even “someday, baby, this will all be yours!” Beyond that you need constant cohabitation and a “reputation for marriage,” meaning you have held yourselves out to the community as husband and wife. Even with these things in place, only a handful of states recognize common law marriages. So though you may think it’s hard to get him to say “I do,” absent all that proof, it’s probably even harder to get the state to say “you did.”

Previous Excerpts:

So Sue Me, Jackass! is on sale everywhere now. For more information — or to ask them your own embarrassing question — check out SoSueMeJackass.com. We’ll be posting more excerpts here in the coming weeks.

One Comment

  1. the best way to keep a long term relationships and living together well is understand that as much as this may sound weird but women are always right, so as a man just try to understand her and every thing will be fine, that the first and only rule.

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