Guide to Common Law Marriage in Connecticut
There are a number of misunderstandings relating to the concept of common law marriage in CT. Myths abound about common law marriage in Connecticut, including the idea that a couple who cohabits for seven years will be considered legally married. This guide will separate the myths from the truths so that you can understand whether your marriage will be legally recognized by the state. You'll also learn about alternatives to Connecticut law on marriage that can help you obtain some of the same benefits as marriage.
History of Common Law Marriage in Connecticut
In medieval England, marriages were considered valid any time a couple made vows to each other and openly represented themselves as husband and wife. These marriages were recognized under the unwritten (“common”) law of England, and this idea of common law marriage crossed the Atlantic with the earliest English settlers. People who were common law married had all the rights and responsibilities of married people. Their children were considered legitimate, and in order to split up, the couple had to go through formal divorce proceedings.
Some states stopped allowing common law marriage as soon as the United States became a nation. Others continued allowing common law marriages for some time, and while some of these states eventually abolished the institution, 10 still allow it today. Common law marriage in CT was never allowed by law, from the time of the founding of the United States. In Connecticut, marriage has only been recognized when a couple makes legally binding wedding vows after obtaining a marriage license.
Is Common Law Marriage in Connecticut Legal?
Common law marriage in CT is not legal and never has been. However, this only means that there is no such thing as a common law marriage in Connecticut that gives partners the same rights as marriage. There is no law against calling someone your husband or wife, but legally these terms simply do not apply unless you have had a marriage ceremony.
Couples who simply cohabit do not have a common law marriage in CT, no matter how long they live together. They will not be able to inherit each other's property or make each other's medical decisions in an emergency, and divorce is not available if they choose to separate permanently.
Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in Connecticut
If you want some of the benefits of common law marriage in CT but are unable or unwilling to take wedding vows, you may want to talk to a matrimonial attorney. An attorney may be able to help you by drafting documents that create legally binding relationships between you and your significant other. This may include wills so that you can legally inherit each other's property, contracts providing for how to divide your property in case of a split, or medical power of attorney documents to ensure you can visit each other in the hospital.
Out of State Common Law Marriages
Even though you cannot obtain a common law marriage in Connecticut, common law marriages contracted in a state that does allow them will be recognized as legally binding marriages by Connecticut. If your common law marriage was valid in another jurisdiction where you lived, your marriage is maintained no matter what state you moved to.