Common Law Marriage In Oklahoma
Today we’re going to talk a little bit about common law marriage. It’s an interesting topic in Oklahoma because Oklahoma is one of the very few states that still recognizes it’s existence. What does it take to be common law married? Well, some people believe that it’s simply living together for some period of time. That’s not what Oklahoma law says.
Typically the most important thing to look at when trying to discern whether or not a couple is common law married is what they believed. So we look to what the putative husband and wife believed. Did they believe that they were married? If in fact, they did believe they were married, then they probably were. What the common law marriage statutes and case law attempt to provide for, at least in my opinion, is for some sort of a semblance of the “family union”.
When people are living together and acting as husband and wife but have neglected for whatever reason, to go get the marriage license and have any sort of ceremonial wedding, then the state interjects a presumed marriage to protect the parties and any children. I think it’s more of a protection of the family unit in as much as the legislature and the judges and different jurisdictions have provided that when people act as husband and wife, procreate, have children, raise a family together, etc. we ought to protect them, the husband and wife in the event of untimely deaths to ensure certain rights are protected for either spouse and for the children of the marriage.
What we look for to determine the existence of a common law marriage is typically at least six months of cohabitation, however there are other signs of intent to be married. Did these people hold themselves out as husband and wife? In other words, when they introduced themselves to strangers, did they do so as husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend or did they make any determination or label at all?
It’s an interesting topic, there’s more to come on it and it will definitely affect people’s rights here in Oklahoma more and more as long as the Courts continue to recognize it. So, when we attempting to determine the existence of a common law marriage we look to cohabitation, tax returns, utility bills, bank accounts, or any other signs that they were doing business together as a couple. Most importantly, first and foremost, did this couple hold themselves out as husband and wife? Did they believe they were married?
Lawrence “Lorenzo” Goodwin – Oklahoma City Family Law Attorney
1315 N. Shartel
Oklahoma City, OK 73103