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Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma

The definition of common law marriage can be quite confusing at times, especially by parties that live in a state where it is not recognized. Common law marriage is a form of unity that some couples take as an alternative to marriage. Some couples don’t care to go through the formalized process of obtaining a marriage license, and others just don’t care to be characterized as a married couple. It is a fact that many couples today shy away from the idea of marriage because they don’t care to participate in the process of a religious or civil wedding ceremony.

Oklahoma Common Law Question and Answer

Question: How is common law marriage established in Oklahoma?

Answer: Oklahoma case law sets forth a five-part test to establish a common law marriage:

  • An actual and mutual agreement between the spouses to be husband and wife;
  • A permanent relationship;
  • An exclusive relationship;
  • The parties to the marriage must hold themselves out publicly as husband and wife, and;
  • Cohabitation as man and wife (There is actually a split of authority on this particular standard).

The party asserting a common law marriage must prove all of these elements by clear and convincing evidence. This can be done with evidence such as joint income tax returns, joint financial accounts, jointly held assets, joint credit, medical records, insurance records, introductions and comments to third parties, hotel receipts, and any number of other sources. If clear and convincing evidence is missing as to any part of the above referenced test, the claim of a common law marriage will fail. Obviously, each common law marriage case is determined on its own facts.

Myths surround the statistics of common law marriage in such that it is necessary to seek legal advice when entering or exiting a relationship arrangement. It is also important to know that common law marriage is only recognized by certain states. A couple in Mississippi may want to enter into a common law marriage, but if they are not wise to the fact that Mississippi does not recognize common law marriage they will find themselves greatly disappointed.

This is where Privett Law can serve as a helping hand when it comes to the complications of common law marriage.  Privett Law can help define the requirements that need to be met in order to enter a common law marriage, and they can also help with the division of assets when a common law marriage is ending. Contact Privett Law today and receive your full consultation addressing the issue of common law marriage.

What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage is, depending on your perspective, either a traditional or a non-traditional form of marriage. Basically, a common law marriage exists when a two parties form the intent to be married but forego the process of obtaining a marriage license and completing a civil or state-recognized ceremony.

What States Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Currently, the number of states that recognize common law marriage is in the minority. The jurisdictions that do recognize common law marriages are:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire ( for inheritance purposes only )
Oklahoma (for those relationships that began after 11/1/98)
Rhode Island
South Carolina

How Do I Enter into a Common Law Marriage?

Two parties who cohabitate and form the requisite intent to be “married” have the ability to form a common law marriage. This intent can be proven in several ways, including doing things that licensed married couples would do, including: 

Filing tax returns jointly
Using words like “my husband” and/or “my wife”
Adopting a common last name
Wearing wedding rings or other significations of marriage

Oklahoma Common Law Marriage Requirements

There are five generally recognized requirements for a common law marriage to be seen as valid in Oklahoma. They are as follows: 

The parties needed to overtly agree to live as husband and wife
The couple’s relationship is seen as permanent
The couple’s relationship is exclusive
The couple cohabitates as any husband and wife would 
The couple holds themselves out publicly as husband and wife

These elements are required by Oklahoma state law in order for your common law marriage to be recognized.

Proof of Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma

Affidavit of Common Law Marriage

If you live in a jurisdiction that validates/recognizes common law marriage, you can prove that you are in fact “married” by providing sworn affidavits from at least two people who are privy to your common law relationship. This, along with a sworn affidavit from yourself regarding your history together will help to prove the existence of a common law marriage.

Affidavit Requirements to Prove Common Law Marriage

The sworn affidavits you gather should include, at a minimum, the following facts:

The amount of time you have cohabitated. 

A complete listing of all of the addresses where you cohabitated. Proof/records of any type of public announcement or decree of common law marriage. 

The fact that those around you – your friends, family members, co-workers, etc. – considered you to be husband and wife.

Your own affidavit needs to include:

The state where the two of you decided to enter into a common law marriage and The date when this decision was made.

Your affidavit should also include a complete listing of any previous marriage relationships, both licensed and under common law. If you have been married in the past, you will need to include all relevant dates and how and when these relationships ended.

Marriage in Oklahoma

Aside from the issues surrounding common law marriage in Oklahoma, there is obviously still a standard and a ‘legal’ form of marriage that is recognized by the courts and the statutes. Below is a brief look at how the Oklahoma statutes define and recognize marriage:

“Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract to which the consent of parties legally competent of contracting and of entering into it is necessary, and the marriage relation shall only be entered into, maintained or abrogated as provided by law.”

Another recent issue is that of same gender marriages, and the Oklahoma statutes deal with this issue as well:

“A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.”

Divorce in Oklahoma

When a marriage ends in Oklahoma and proceeds to the courthouse for finalization, one must realize that this process in effect dissolves the family unit as recognized by the law and that grounds should usually be asserted for a divorce. Below are the 12 recognized grounds for divorce in Oklahoma:

The district court may grant a divorce for any of the following causes:

“First. Abandonment for one (1) year.
Second. Adultery.
Third. Impotency.
Fourth. When the wife at the time of her marriage, was pregnant by another than her husband.
Fifth. Extreme cruelty.
Sixth. Fraudulent contract.
Seventh. Incompatibility.
Eighth. Habitual drunkenness.
Ninth. Gross neglect of duty.
Tenth. Imprisonment of the other party in a state or federal penal institution under sentence thereto for the commission of a felony at the time the petition is filed.
Eleventh. The procurement of a final divorce decree without this state by a husband or wife which does not in this state release the other party from the obligations of the marriage.
Twelfth. Insanity for a period of five (5) years…”

Your Next Step

Within the areas of common law marriage, marriage and divorce are several issues that must be addressed when either entering into or ending such an arrangement. Privett Law can provide the legal help necessary to clarify issues regarding common law marriage, ‘traditional’ marriage and/or divorce in Oklahoma. Contact Privett Law today to schedule an initial consultation regarding any of these issues.