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Common Law Marriages
A “common law” marriage, a relationship in which a couple lives together but has not participated in a lawful ceremony, cannot be created in Maryland. A couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. Legal action is not required to dissolve such a relationship.
However, Maryland does recognize as valid, common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met. As a result, legal action is necessary to dissolve legal “common law” marriages created in other states and foreign countries in compliance with their licensing and ceremonial regulations. The courts can determine the rights of parties now living in Maryland.
As long as a couple lives together as husband and wife, the question of validity of their marriage is unlikely to arise. However, for purposes of inheritance or to receive the benefits of pension plans or social security, a valid marriage is required. Should a couple have questions as to whether a marriage is valid, they should consult an attorney.
Common-law marriage are not favored. Currently, few states recognize common-law marriages. The states include Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Some states only recognize common-law marriages formed before a certain date, and some only for a specific purpose. The District of Columbia also recognizes common law marriages. New Hampshire recognizes common-law marriages for inheritance purposes only.
Maryland will recognize a common-law marriage that was validly entered into in one of the 11 states listed above or the District of Columbia. Thus, if an unmarried couple moves to Maryland from a state that recognized their union as a common-law marriage, Maryland will also treat their relationship as a valid marriage.
Is this legal advice?
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”