Am I Married? Part 1: Long Term Relationships are Not Marriages

Many couples in long-term relationships have heard that after a certain amount of time, you will be considered married. If you are a resident of New York, this is simply not true. The idea that a long-term relationship can become a marriage is rooted in the common law. While some states do recognize “common law marriage,” a long-term relationship is not enough to qualify for a common law marriage. In states that allow common law marriage additional requirements need to be met. New York permitted common law marriage until 1933. New York Residents have since been required to obtain a marriage license and have a valid marriage ceremony in order to have their marriage recognized by the state.

A valid marriage permits a spouse, among other benefits, to inherit property from their spouse, obtain discounted or free health insurance under the other spouse’s policy and right to receive spouse’s Social Security, pension, worker’s compensation, or disability benefits. Additionally, divorce and equitable distribution are only available to parties who are legally married.

New York will, however, will recognize common law marriages formed in states where common law marriage is valid. This generally happens when parties move from a state that permits common law marriage to New York. Under these circumstances, couples receive the same rights as other married couples and those who meet the residency requirements for a New York Divorce will be able to divorce in the state.

States that currently permit common law marriage are: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Each state has its own requirements to qualify for common law marriage and states may uphold a common law marriage on a case by case basis.

Note:  An attorney should be consulted to determine the validity of a marriage based on common law.