Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma | Everything You Need to Know



Many people are not sure what the answer to the question ‘when did Oklahoma stop recognizing common law marriage?’ is and there is a lot of controversy regarding this issue. In our article, we are going to explore all the aspects involved in common law marriage and what Oklahoma state has to say about it.

Common law has been official in the United States since 1877, but only a few states still recognize it. These states are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, District of Columbia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Texas. In Texas, however, it is called informal marriage. 

To be clear, these states accept common law marriage fully, not like other 6 states, Oklahoma included, which have accepted it before but now they don’t anymore. These states are Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Idaho, Georgia, Ohio, and Oklahoma. In New Hampshire, it is accepted only for inheritance purposes.

Oklahoma laws, however, accept common law marriage only if it has been created before the 1st of November 1998. The controversy around this matter was created because there have been some cases in which, in court, some exceptions were made.


What is common law marriage?

If you are not familiar with this term, you should know that common law marriage means that a couple can live together as married even if they haven’t taken part in an official ceremony and without a marriage license. This type of informal marriage is also called sui iuris marriage or marriage by habit and repute. 

While today, this type of marriage may raise some eyebrows, in ancient Greece and Rome, many marriages were nothing more than private agreements that involved the two individuals and their families. The best part about this is that there was no social stigma involved when it came to two people cohabiting this way.

Nowadays, there are many countries in the world where common marriage doesn’t even exist and the fact that there are a few states in the United States that still recognize this type of arrangement is pretty amazing, mostly because a lot of people would love to be a part of one but the laws will not allow them to.

There are, however, some things that need to be considered that make a relationship legal in terms of the law. So, to be able to say that a relationship is a common law marriage in Oklahoma, or was before 1998, the following factors have to be met:


The partners have to represent themselves as a married couple

This is a little bit hard to prove in the court of law because the word of the couple’s friends and family will have to be taken for granted. However, everyone around you should know that you are married and you should refer to your partner as husband, wife, or spouse. This is an important aspect that should not be overlooked.

Also, it is great if you have common bank accounts and you have taken the same name as one of the partners, exactly like it would happen in a conventional marriage.


The partners have to live together

Living together is something that every married couple does. There are some exceptions, of course, but those cases are very rare and happen only when there is a job issue or the health of a family member is involved. Therefore, in order for a common law marriage to be recognized, the couple has to be living together.

In Oklahoma, if you want your relationship to be recognized as a common law marriage, you have to have been living together since before the 1st of November 1998. Otherwise, you might have problems demonstrating that you are living in this form of arrangement.


Both partners intend to get married

This is another aspect that might seem like a banality but it is an important issue. So if you are in court and you want to prove that you have been living in a common law marriage, you will both have to agree on this.

Partners have to be allowed legally to get married

This is an issue that can cause a lot of problems. First of all, since the arrangement has to have been created before 1998, the fact that both partners have the legal age to be married is a certainty. However, you have to not be married to somebody else and you have to be mentally healthy in order to be able to make the decision to get married. 

In the states that still allow common law marriage, the partners have to be over the age of 18 years.


Both partners have to want the relationship to last forever

This is also a relative thing because one day you can want your relationship to be permanent and things might quickly change the next day. However, it is important that you know that you have to meet this rule in order for a court to accept your relationship as a common law marriage.

People don’t usually understand this, but a common law marriage involves all the things that a licensed marriage involves and your life is exactly like that of someone who is legally married. Therefore, your intentions should be those of a person whose answer is ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you promise to love and cherish your partner forever?’.


Why is common law marriage acknowledgment important?

When you have a partner and you have been living together for a while, you might have some common investments. If you break up, you might want to take your money back. This is why most couples invoke common marriage in court because they want to split their wealth fairly. 

As we have said before, even if in Oklahoma the law says that a common law marriage is only recognized if the arrangement has been made before November 1st, 1998, there have been some exceptions in court, and judges tend to be indulging regarding this aspect.

However, even if it seems that common law marriages are still accepted in Oklahoma, the state’s laws beg to differ even if courts have different rulings. This is why you should never rely on the fact that it will be accepted in your case as well. Therefore, a marriage license is a great option to make sure that you have it all covered.


Common issues that can influence how your relationship appears in court

If you want to prove that you have been living in a common law marriage, you have to take some aspects into consideration that might convince someone that you are telling the truth. For example, how long you have been living together can be evidence of that. Also, if you have purchased a car or a house together, it will be able to make a difference. 

If you have been raising kids together might be a curiosity of some judges and lawyers might emphasize this aspect. You might be able to prove that you have been splitting the bills or that you have common credit cards or bank accounts. All of these factors can make a huge difference in court.


The divorce

In most countries around the world, when married couples split up, they need to get a divorce in order to be free of marital duties. This is not very different when it comes to common law marriage. This can work as an advantage for you or as a disadvantage. 

If you want to split up very quickly, like an unmarried couple, things might get a little bit uncomfortable even if you have moved to a state that does not support common law marriage. 

If you are living in a common law marriage anywhere in the United States territory and this common law marriage agreement has been recognized, it will not make a difference if you move to another state, you still have to get a divorce.

This divorce will have a lot of implications on different aspects of your life, like how you are going to share your money, common properties, child custody, and more. If you think about it, it is fair for things to happen this way even if you do not have a marriage license, because common law marriage is just like a regular marriage, but without the papers.


Final thoughts

Common law marriages have the same rules in all the states that allow them. Well, almost the same. The fact is that in Oklahoma things are not very clear about this. The law says that it is not legal anymore. However, in court, there have been some cases that have contradicted these laws.

This is why the best thing you can do is to make it official and get a marriage license if that is truly what you want or remain in a casual relationship if you are not yet sure that you are ready to make the big step.