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Common Law Marriage Maryland

Common Law Marriage Maryland

Understanding the “Common Law” Marriage in Maryland

There’s a different kind of marriage? Most definitely, there is.

It’s called a “Common law” marriage in Maryland. If you need legal advice and assistance, contact Maryland lawyers.

The Basis Behind a “Common Law” Marriage in Maryland

Essentially, it’s a marriage without a certificate, without a ceremony, without witnesses – without any actual legal standing whatsoever.

That’s why they call it a “Common Law” marriage. You might think of it as a “natural law” marriage. This is something that has existed in history for the longest time, before the concept of law wasn’t yet established as a legal process in society.

Here’s the Thing, Though….

There’s no such thing as a “Common Law” marriage in Maryland. It simply isn’t recognized.

That means by “Common Law” marriage laws, no such marriage requires any legal procedure to end, because the state of Maryland doesn’t recognize it in the first place. There are no marriage requirements for it. Nothing.


Maryland does recognize a “Common Law” marriage in Maryland if it was established in another state that recognizes those types of marriages.

The legal requirements established by those “Common Law” marriage laws would have to be met.

Other than that, those “Common Law” marriage laws in the other supposed state would apply just fine in Maryland and would require a legal procedure to dissolve such a marriage.

Marriage requirements are such, too, that even when there’s no such thing as a “common” marriage in Maryland, the state will recognize the specific requirements for such a type of marriage as that and would honor it as if it were common in the state.

However, a “Common Law” marriage in Maryland won’t have any specific benefits of inheritance, pension plan, or social security, without an actual valid marriage in Maryland.

The Reason for “Common Law” Marriage Laws

This dates well back into biblical times, obviously. Marriage requirements were so basic that just about anyone could get married – without paperwork or witnesses.

All that was necessary was a priest, pastor, reverend, or minister. That was it. Moreover, marriage requirements didn’t have such things as prenuptial or written concepts for divorce. Although a basic idea of divorce did exist – just not with so many aspects that are so prevalent today.

“Common Law” marriage laws became so archaic simply because of the fact that many people would desert their spouses after entering into marriage with no compensation – either emotional or financial – to the other party.

So the law had to step in – get things written down. Marriage requirements became stiffer. “Common Law” marriage laws became less common and more specific. Marriage requirements were part of the legal faction of society and not a standard in a household.

Are You Pursuing a “Common Law” Marriage?

In Maryland, know that the only way to do that is to enter a state that recognizes it. And if you want to move to Maryland, do so. Go through the correct process to file your “common” marriage with the court system, and it will be treated just like any marriage.

Common Law Marriage in Maryland: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities


When it comes to legal relationships, marriage is one of the most important and influential institutions in our society. But what happens when you have been living together with your partner for a long time, without a traditional marriage ceremony? Is there such a thing as a common law marriage in Maryland? And if so, what are the rights and responsibilities of each partner?

In this article, we will explore the concept of common law marriage in Maryland, including its history, legal requirements, and practical implications. We will use official government resources and relevant case law to provide up-to-date information and guidance. Whether you are currently in a common law marriage, thinking about entering into one, or simply curious about this topic, you will find valuable insights and perspectives here.

What is Common Law Marriage?

Let us start with the basics. Common law marriage is a form of legal relationship that arises from the behavior and intent of two people who live together and present themselves as married, without obtaining a formal marriage license or going through a ceremony. It is also sometimes called a de facto marriage, a non-ceremonial marriage, or a marriage by habit and repute.

The concept of common law marriage has a long history, dating back to medieval England. In those times, many people lived in remote villages where it was difficult to find a priest or a town clerk who could perform a wedding. As a result, couples who wanted to establish a legal union would simply start living together and treating each other as spouses. If they stayed together for a certain period of time, and if their neighbors and friends recognized them as a married couple, then they would be deemed to be married under the law.

Over time, this tradition spread to other countries, including the United States. Today, common law marriage is recognized in a few states, although its legal status and requirements vary widely. In some states, such as Colorado and Texas, common law marriage is equal to traditional marriage in all respects. In other states, such as Utah and New Hampshire, it is only recognized for certain purposes, such as inheritance or divorce.

Is Common Law Marriage Legal in Maryland?

In Maryland, common law marriage is not recognized as a valid form of legal marriage. This means that even if you have been living with your partner for many years, calling each other husband and wife, and filing joint tax returns, you are not legally married unless you have obtained a marriage license and had a ceremony performed by an authorized officiant.

However, this does not mean that the state of Maryland completely ignores the reality of cohabitation and long-term relationships. There are some legal frameworks that offer limited protections and obligations for unmarried couples, such as domestic partnership registration, cohabitation agreements, and those laws that grant certain rights and benefits to “family members” or “surviving spouses”.

Domestic Partnership Registration

One way for unmarried couples to formalize their relationship is by registering as domestic partners with the Secretary of State. A domestic partnership is a legal status that is available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples who meet certain criteria, such as being over 18, living together for at least one year, being financially interdependent, and not being married to someone else.

By registering as domestic partners, couples in Maryland can enjoy some of the benefits and protections that are typically associated with marriage, such as hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, spousal support, and health insurance coverage. However, domestic partnership registration does not confer all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, such as federal tax benefits, immigration sponsorship, or the ability to adopt children.

Cohabitation Agreements

Another way for unmarried couples to clarify their legal rights and obligations is by entering into a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a written contract that sets out the terms of the couple’s living arrangements, financial arrangements, property rights, and other matters that may become relevant if the relationship ends or one partner dies.

A cohabitation agreement can address issues such as who pays for what expenses, how property is titled and divided, who inherits what assets, and whether spousal support will be paid. It can also include provisions for how disputes will be resolved, how pets will be cared for, and how family events will be handled.

Having a cohabitation agreement can help partners to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, and can provide a roadmap for how to proceed in case of a breakup or a death. However, a cohabitation agreement is not a substitute for a marriage license, and it may not be enforceable in certain circumstances, such as if it violates public policy or if there are elements of fraud or duress involved.

Family Law Protections

Even if Maryland does not recognize common law marriage, there are still some family law protections that are available to unmarried couples who meet the criteria of “”family members”” or “”surviving spouses”” under Maryland law.

For example, if you live with your partner and have a child together, you may be able to establish legal paternity and custody rights through a court order, even if you are not married. You may also be eligible for child support or alimony if you can show that you provided financial support or contributed to the household in a significant way.

In addition, if your partner dies without a will, you may have some rights to inherit his or her property through the laws of intestacy. Under Maryland law, a surviving domestic partner who registered with the state may be entitled to the same share of the deceased partner’s estate as a surviving spouse would receive. Similarly, a surviving partner who can prove that he or she had a “”marriage-like”” relationship with the deceased partner may be able to inherit under the doctrine of “”equitable distribution””.

Practical Implications of Common Law Marriage in Maryland

Now that we have covered the legal background and options for unmarried couples in Maryland, let us turn our attention to some practical implications of common law marriage, whether it is recognized or not.

First and foremost, if you are living with someone and considering a commitment, it is important to have an open and honest conversation about your expectations, goals, and feelings. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts down the road, and can help you to make informed decisions about your future together.

If you decide to register as domestic partners or enter into a cohabitation agreement, it is essential to seek the advice of an attorney who is knowledgeable about family law and the specific requirements of Maryland. A DIY approach may seem tempting, but it can lead to costly mistakes and unenforceable provisions.

If you are already in a long-term relationship, and you believe that you may have some rights or protections under Maryland law, such as intestate inheritance or domestic violence protection, it is important to consult with an attorney to evaluate your situation and explore your options.


Common law marriage in Maryland may not be legally recognized, but it does not mean that unmarried couples have no rights or responsibilities. By understanding the legal options and implications, as well as by communicating honestly and sensibly with your partner, you can create a fulfilling and stable relationship that meets your needs and desires. Ultimately, the key to a successful union is not the quality of the wedding ceremony or the legality of the paperwork, but the quality of the commitment and the depth of the love.