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What is Common Law Marriage and How Does it Work?

By Jan 31, 2023 Posted in Newsletter

Common law marriage is a term that is used relatively often; however, how it is applied within the context of disputes like separation or child custody agreements is often difficult to determine. Under the Iowa Administrative Code Ch. 73, common law marriage is defined as “a social relationship between a man and a woman that meets all the necessary requisite of a marriage,” excepting that is was not “solemnized, performed or witnessed by an official authorized by law to perform marriages.” To qualify as a common law marriage, it must meet the requirements of a marriage, less the need for an officially recognized ceremony. Also, contrary to popular belief, there is no magic number of years that the parties must have cohabitated in order for a common-law marriage to exist. 

The definition, and its application in practice in the courts, require complex legal knowledge. If you are experiencing a separation and believe you may have been in a common law marriage, an experienced family law attorney from Simpson Legal Group, LLC is available to advise you on what your best options are. 

Certifying Your Common Law Marriage by Filing 

To achieve full legal recognition for your common law marriage, you may file Form 552-0690. Within this form, the spouses mutually declare the following:

  • The start date, or approximate start date, for when their cohabitation began, with the intention of being married 
  • Both spouses must swear under oath that neither has been previously married, or if so, that the previous marriage was terminated by annulment, divorce, or death
  • Permission is granted to the state of Iowa to inquire about your status to anyone who knows you or may know you as having held yourselves out as spouses since the date declared in the application 
  • Both spouses acknowledge, “We declare that we understand that a common law marriage is legally recognized as a marriage and must be terminated through a legal divorce.” 
  • Further documentation may be required at the request of the state 

If you are in a common-law marriage and are looking to gain the benefits of a legally married couple, this form is an initial step in the process. 

Common Law Marriages Must be Terminated Through a Legal Divorce

While common law marriages are allowed an exception in terms of the official ceremony, when a couple is found to be in what legally constitutes a common law marriage, a legal divorce is necessary to terminate the relationship. This is because the couple’s lives have become so intertwined that a divorce proceeding is necessary to provide for the legal division of property, determination of spousal support, and any child-related issues

Learn More About Common Law Marriage with a Family Law Attorney

To learn how we can help, call (712) 256-9899, or visit our site to schedule a consultation

Contact Us

50 Northcrest Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503
Phone: 712.256.9899

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