About once a month, a person calls me and starts asking about their rights regarding their common law marriage in Minnesota. I then spend about the next 10 minutes explain that Common law marriage was abolished in 1941, despite what they may have heard.

What is common law marriage? Well, individual states have different interpretation about what  a common law marriage but generally a common law marriage comes from the English and common law system that we inherited in the U.S. In a nutshell, if you live together and hold yourself out as married for a certain period of years, then you are married under the common law. Only a handful of states still recognize common law and they are: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina,Utah, and Texas.

  • An interesting aside, with gay marriage if you live together in a same-sex couple does that count as common law marriage in any of the above mentioned states? Stay tuned for that analysis.

One client argued with me for quite awhile that since they had lived together in Iowa for 15 years they were married and could be divorced in Minnesota.  This is not the case, in order to get divorced in Minnesota you must have resided in Minnesota for 180 days and since we don’t recognize common law marriage in Minnesota there is nothing to divorce.  It is possible, I suppose to try it, but odds are very great the Minnesota court would dismiss the case.

So if you are hoping to have marital rights in Minnesota you better have a solemnized ceremony and marriage license.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgeable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.