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Common Law Marriage Wisconsin

Common Law Marriage Wisconsin

What’s a “Common Law” Marriage in Wisconsin?

Do you know what happens when you basically live with a person for a very long time?

You become automatically married. Another word for that – by legal marriage requirements – is something called a “common law marriage.”

The Basics of a “Common Law” Marriage

This is a kind of marriage not even requiring a legal document or ceremony. No witnesses are required. No filing for a certificate in a courthouse either. It’s basically a natural marriage by the order of events.

The thing is only several states in the country recognize Wisconsin law on common marriage:

1. Alabama

2. Colorado

3. District of Columbia

4. Iowa

5. Kansas

6. Montana

7. New Hampshire

8. Oklahoma

9. Rhode Island

10. South Carolina

11. Texas

12. Utah

There is actually no such thing as a “Common Law” marriage in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, a legal marriage requires a ceremony, witnesses, a certificate filed in the appropriate county courthouse. Those are your legal, traditional marriage requirements.

There are a few different types of Common Law marriage laws, depending on the state. For instance, Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, and Pennsylvania actually do have Common Law marriage laws for the purpose of recognizing such marriages before the date the practice itself was abolished.

The marriage requirements in those states would be just the same for a common law marriage as a traditional marriage so long as the marriage occurred before the state had abolished the practice. Furthermore, Kentucky has Common Law marriage laws in terms of recognizing them from states allowing them only for the purpose of awarding workers’ compensation benefits.

Currently, every state will recognize a “common law” marriage if the marriage was created in a state allowing it. Therefore, it’s possible that there can be a “Common Law” marriage in Wisconsin; in fact, there are probably plenty out there.

Those marriages bound by Common Law marriage laws, though, wouldn’t have been created in the state of Wisconsin, though.

Basic Marriage Requirements for a Common Law Marriage

Believe it or not, there are no legal marriage requirements at all. Not even a couple of marriage requirements for Common Law.

However, in those states that allow it, there are a few rules not governed by the law that would be mandatory (and can be considered Common Law marriage laws, to be honest):

1. Couple Has to Be Heterosexual

2. Cohabitation for a Great Deal of Time

3. Public Declaration of Marriage

And that’s it. There’s not even a set of marriage requirements for any of the states allowing common-law marriages, stating the amount of time for cohabitation. It simply has to be for a long time.

In addition, the community has to be able to see that the two people are obviously “married,” in that they keep referring to each other as married, use the same last name, refer to each other as “husband” and “wife.”

This would obviously be the case as well with a supposed “Common Law” marriage in Wisconsin. A “Common Law” marriage in Wisconsin, although created in any of the states allowing it, would only have the rules and regulations in Wisconsin that would be typical elsewhere.

Common Law Marriage Wisconsin: An Overview

In Wisconsin, common law marriage – also known as informal marriage – is not recognized. The state only recognizes marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman or two individuals of the same sex. This means that couples who cohabit or live together without getting married in a formal ceremony do not have any legal rights and obligations associated with marriage. Even if they consider themselves to be married under common law principles, they cannot avail themselves of the protections and benefits that married couples enjoy.

This article will delve into the history of common law marriage and how it has evolved over time. It will also explore the reasons why Wisconsin, along with other states, has declined to recognize common law marriage. Additionally, the article will discuss the legal implications of not having a common law marriage in Wisconsin, and what couples can do to protect themselves and their assets in the absence of a legal recognition of their relationship.

The History of Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage dates back to medieval England, where it was recognized as a legal union between a man and a woman who had lived together for a certain period of time. The concept was brought over to the United States by English colonists and was recognized in many states during the 19th century.

Generally, the requirements for a common law marriage included: both parties must be of legal age, they must be of sound mind, they must have the capacity to consent to the marriage, and they must have cohabited and held themselves out to the public as a married couple. The period of cohabitation varied from state to state, with some requiring only a few months while others required several years.

Over time, many states began to abolish common law marriage, mostly due to changing attitudes and social norms regarding marriage. Today, only a handful of states still recognize common law marriage, with varying requirements and regulations.

Why Wisconsin Does Not Recognize Common Law Marriage

Wisconsin, like many other states, has chosen not to recognize common law marriage for a variety of reasons, including legal, social, and cultural factors.

From a legal standpoint, recognizing common law marriage creates uncertainty and confusion regarding the rights and obligations of the parties involved. Without a formal, legal ceremony, it is difficult to determine when a common law marriage begins or ends, and what legal consequences may arise from the relationship. This ambiguity can lead to disputes and challenges in court, and can be particularly problematic when it comes to issues such as inheritance, property division, and child custody.

In addition, not recognizing common law marriage aligns with Wisconsin’s traditional views on marriage and family. The state has long held a strong emphasis on marriage as a societal institution, and recognizes it as a legal contract that confers certain rights and benefits to the parties involved. By maintaining the traditional definition of marriage as a formal, legal union between a man and a woman or between two individuals of the same sex, Wisconsin reinforces the importance of family values and the sanctity of marriage as an enduring institution.

Legal Implications of Not Having a Common Law Marriage in Wisconsin

Not having a common law marriage in Wisconsin has several legal implications for couples who choose to cohabit or live together without getting married.

One of the biggest impacts is on property division in the event of a breakup. In a common law marriage, both parties are entitled to an equitable distribution of property, regardless of whose name is on the title or deed. However, without a legal recognition of the relationship, property ownership is determined solely by the name on the title or deed. This means that one partner may be left with nothing in the event of a breakup, even if they contributed significantly to the acquisition of property or other assets.

Similarly, without a common law marriage, there are no automatic rights to inheritance or survivor benefits. This can be particularly problematic in situations where one partner dies without a will, or where there are disputes over who is entitled to the deceased partner’s assets. In such cases, the surviving partner may have to go to court to prove their entitlement to the deceased partner’s estate, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Another area where not having a common law marriage can create difficulties is in child custody and child support disputes. In a common law marriage, both partners have equal rights and obligations when it comes to children, including custody and support. However, without a legal recognition of the relationship, custody and support issues can become much more complicated, as there may be no formal agreement or court order in place to determine the parties’ respective rights and responsibilities.

Protecting Yourself and Your Assets without a Common Law Marriage

Despite the lack of legal recognition for common law marriage in Wisconsin, there are steps that couples can take to protect themselves and their assets.

One of the most effective ways is to create a written agreement between the parties, outlining their respective rights and obligations in the event of a breakup or other circumstances. This agreement can cover issues such as property ownership, inheritance, child custody and support, and other matters relevant to the couple’s relationship. By putting their intentions in writing, the parties can avoid many of the disputes and misunderstandings that can arise when there is no clear agreement in place.

Additionally, both parties should ensure that they have appropriate legal documents in place, such as wills, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives. These documents can provide clear guidance in the event of incapacity or death, and can help to ensure that each party’s wishes are respected and followed.


Common law marriage may have historical roots, but it is a concept that has largely been done away with in modern society. Wisconsin and most states in the USA have declined to recognize it due to a number of legal, social, and cultural factors. However, couples who choose to live together without getting married can still take steps to protect themselves and their assets, including creating a written agreement and having appropriate legal documents in place. By doing so, they can ensure that their wishes are respected and that their rights and obligations are clear and well-established.