It’s a commonly held belief that if you live with your partner for seven years, you enter into a “common law” marriage. The idea is that, after so many years, you don’t need file a license to be legally married. However, as NPR explains, this is mostly a myth.
Contrary to popular belief, only 12 states actually recognize common law marriage. Up until recently, Alabama was on that already short list, but the state abolished it. New Hampshire only recognizes it for inheritance purposes So common law marriage does exist in a few states, but the guidelines are kind of vague. What’s more, the standard “seven-year rule” is a myth. Marsha Garrison, a family law professor at Brooklyn Law School told NPR:
By far the most common number is seven years…I’ve never figured out where that may have come from and why it’s seven years.
In reality, the time frame actually varies-most states simply say you have to live together for “a significant amount of time,” as legal site Nolo points out. However, in those dozen or so states where common law marriage is recognized, you get all the same legal rights and tax breaks married couples get. This also means you have to go through a formal divorce process, though.
Read the full story at NPR for more detail.
Photo by Vladimir Pustovit