What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage is not something that comes up often in Illinois. Under state statute, couples have not been allowed to contract a common law marriage in Illinois since June 30, 1905. However, the mere fact that people cannot contract new common law marriages in our state does not mean that common law marriage does not present family law issues here. While one cannot start a common law marriage in Illinois, one can end one from another state here, so they can be very relevant to the practice of divorce.

Are Common Law Marriages Recognized in Illinois?

While common law marriages are not allowed to be “contracted” in Illinois, the state will recognized common law marriages validly contracted in other states. Currently, common law marriage is allowed in:

  • Alabama;
  • Idaho;
  • Colorado;
  • Oklahoma;
  • Iowa (including same-sex common law marriage);
  • Kansas;
  • Montana;
  • Ohio; and
  • Washington D.C.

There are also several states that only eliminated common law marriage in the last 30 years, so one could have a legally contracted common law marriage from one of those states. While every state has slightly different laws on common law marriage, usually two things are required: (1) cohabitation for some period of time, often at least a year; and (2) having an agreement to be married and then holding themselves out as spouses to the public. If a couple fulfills these requirements in a state where common law marriage is legal, then state statute provides that Illinois will later recognize that marriage.

Common Law Divorce

Divorce is available for those who are common law married, although it is no different than divorce for married couples. While people who are in a common law marriage do not have any sort of marriage license or official record of their marriage, they are still required to go through the same divorce proceedings as any married couple if they want to separate. This involves going through the same petition process, the same process for division of assets, and the same process for determining child custody. The only difference is that one or both parties may try to argue that the couple never formed a valid common law marriage in a different state, so that may lead to additional litigation.

Call Our Attorneys Today

If you are in a common law marriage from another state and are considering an Illinois divorce, you will need the assistance of an Illinois divorce attorney. Call the lawyers at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. at 630-655-7676 to schedule an appointment and to learn how we can be of assistance. We are well-versed and experienced in the field of family law, and can advise you on your options and help you understand how to pursue a divorce in Illinois.