I have a friend whose boyfriend refused to marry…anyone. Over dinner at TGIFriday’s, he claimed he didn’t think marriage was necessary. Common law marriage, he spat while chewing on a piece of steak, that’s where it’s at. No wedding costs. No interference from the federal government. No need. And with that he went back to his meal.
My friend, however, had…other plans. She would stick it out because she loved him. He only feels that way because he was previously engaged to a deranged woman, she reasoned. What we have is different. It will work out, she reassured herself. And surprisingly, it did. Three years later she strolled down the aisle of a Catholic church in a beautiful white gown. Two years after exchanging vows in front of family and friends, they remain happily married with children.
My friend may be the exception to this story. Many women in a similar predicament may be left without a ring or left at the alter. With that said, it is extremely important to take his words seriously. If he says he doesn’t believe in marriage do not take it lightly. He may never marry you and instead choose to love you and live with you without the piece of paper. That’s when you must make the choice: Is common law marriage enough or do I need him to put a ring on it and sign a marriage license?!
To help women make an informed decision, I decided to break down common law marriage. According to Black’s Law, in order to have a “common law” marriage a man and a woman must agree that they are married, live together for 7 years or more in a state that recognizes common law marriage, and present themselves as husband and wife. There is no ceremony. There is no ring. There is no marriage license. It is simply “a positive mutual agreement, permanent and exclusive of all others, to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitation sufficient to warrant a fulfillment of necessary relationship of man and wife, and an assumption of marital duties and obligations.”
As for where this law exists, you must reside in one of the following states:
- Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
- Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
- New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
- Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
- Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98)
- Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
It seems us fellow Californians, Floridians, and New Yorkers are out of luck.
I don’t know how any of you feel but I much rather be legally married. I want to sign the marriage license, indicating that I am committing to the partnership. I also want my dream wedding and to celebrate my love with my friends and family present. I want to practice my right to marry. Same-sex couples fight to have this right daily, so I rather not dismiss it as if marriage is frivolous. That’s why we should think twice about what we are giving up, literally and figuratively, when deciding to play house without a legal title. Really think about what you are gaining and, most importantly, what you are abandoning.