Every state has legal requirements for a couple to get married. They typically include applying for and obtaining a marriage license that recognizes the legal marriage. However, some states also recognize common law marriages. A common law marriage is one in which both parties have voluntarily agreed to enter into a marriage and hold themselves out to be married, but have not formally sought legal recognition of their union.
This has many wondering if Oklahoma recognizes common law marriages, what this arrangement entails in the Sooner State, and what type of evidence points towards a common law marriage. In addition, if you were in a common law marriage, do you have to get a divorce if you break up?
Proving a Common Law Marriage
Typically, couples don’t wonder if they’re considered to have a common law marriage, or if they are even legally married, until it’s time for them to break up. At this point, one of the partners may deny ever being in a common law marriage because they don’t want to agree to some terms, such as alimony. When this is the case, the other spouse will need to prove in court that they were in a common law relationship.
To establish there was a common law relationship, one must prove:
● Both parties had the legal capacity to enter into the marriage, such as they were of legal age and did not already have a spouse;
● Both parties mutually agreed they would enter into an exclusive agreement of marriage;
● The two parties must have cohabited during the marriage, or consummated their relationship; and
● Both parties portrayed themselves to others as married.
Evidence is needed to prove these points. That evidence can come in the form of rent receipts or mortgage statements, notes that include the terms ‘husband’ or ‘wife,’ testimony from people that knew the couple, and more.
Divorcing in a Common Law Marriage
Oklahoma is one of just a handful of states that continues to recognize common law couples as legally married. Due to this, when the relationship dissolves, those in a common law marriage often wonder if they will have to officially get divorced. The answer is that while it isn’t necessary, it’s recommended that every common law couple obtains an official divorce.
If the couple completely agrees on terms of the breakup, including child custody, alimony, and property division, they may think they do not need to officially get a divorce. There is no license, so they see no need to make anything official. Unfortunately, this could hurt either partner in the end.
This is because when there is no official divorce judgment in place, either spouse can come back at any time and demand half of the other’s assets. For example, imagine a common law couple gets divorced. The woman stays in the home and the husband leaves and the two never officially get divorced. Five years later, the home has tripled in value. The man takes the woman to court for half of the home’s value and, after he proves they had a common law, the judge rules in his favor.
This scenario, or one similar to it, can happen at any time after a common law marriage ends and the two do not get officially divorced. This is why it’s so important for any common law couple to file for divorce should they decide to part ways.
Do You Need a Divorce from a Common Law Marriage? Call the Oklahoma Family Lawyers Who Can Help
Anytime someone is in a common law marriage that’s breaking up, or it’s already broken up, it’s time to officially file for divorce. An Oklahoma divorce lawyer can help you do it. Our firm has extensive experience representing clients who are asserting common law marriage and client who are defending against allegations of a common law marriage.
If you need a divorce from your common law marriage, contact Banks, Gillett, Gillett, PLLC at (405) 607-4800. We can walk you through the entire process and help you ensure that the breakup of your relationship does not come back to haunt you further down the road. Call us today or fill out our online form for your free consultation.