When a couple decides to marry, there are usually a series of steps the couple must take for the marriage to be official. Typically, this involves obtaining a marriage license, taking part in a marriage ceremony, and then filing the marriage certificate with the court. This is the “traditional” way the majority of marriages come to be in Oklahoma and across the country as a whole. However, in Oklahoma there are actually two ways a couple can become married. Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that recognizes “common-law” marriages. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions that people have about common-law marriages in Oklahoma:
What are the requirements to have a common-law marriage in Oklahoma?
Under Oklahoma law, to demonstrate the existence of a common law marriage, a person needs to be able to prove the following five elements:
1) Actual and mutual agreement between the parties to be a married couple;
- 2) A permanent relationship;
- 3) An exclusive relationship;
- 4) Parties hold themselves out publically as a married couple; and
- 5) (in some jurisdictions) the parties co-habitate as a married couple.
How can I prove that I have a valid common-law marriage?
Unlike traditional marriages, common-law marriages must be proven. The following evidence can be used to prove the existence of a common-law marriage:
- Use of the same surname;
- Health insurance showing the existence of a spouse;
- Filing joint tax returns;
- Existence of wedding ring(s);
- Joint ownership of real property, bank accounts, etc.;
- Wills, retirement/bank accounts, and/or life insurance policies that list the other spouse as the beneficiary; and
- Testimony of friends/family members regarding marital status.
If I have a common-law marriage, do I end my marriage through a common-law divorce?
No. In Oklahoma, the only way to end a common-law or traditional marriage is by filing for and having a judge grant a divorce in a court of law.
Are common-law couples entitled to the same things in a divorce as traditionally married couples?
Yes. When a person with a valid common-law marriage files for divorce, he or she is entitled to the same things as if he or she had a traditional marriage. Unlike a couple just living together, when a married couple chooses to end their relationship, each party is entitled to an equitable shares of the assets (and debt) and possibly alimony.
If I have a common-law marriage, can I re-marry (traditionally or common-law) without being granted a divorce first?
No. In Oklahoma a common-law marriage is the same as a traditional marriage. To remarry, a person cannot be married. To remarry without first obtaining a valid divorce would be considered bigamy and would invalidate the second marriage. Not to mention, bigamy is against the law. If you have questions as to whether you have a valid common-law marriage or not, you will want to speak with an experienced Oklahoma family law attorney prior to tying the knot (again).
If you have a common-law marriage and are considering divorcing, it is best that you speak to a seasoned Oklahoma Divorce Attorney as soon as possible. Qualified Oklahoma Divorce Attorneys can help you determine what steps are necessary to prove your marriage, especially if your spouse does not agree that you are married. He or she will work with you throughout every step of the divorce process and make sure that your rights are protected. At The Handley Law Center, our team of dedicated professionals have represented countless divorce clients in both Canadian County and around Oklahoma. To schedule a free and completely confidential consultation, contact The Handley Law Center today at (405) 295-1924. At The Handley Law Center we take pride in providing divorce client with top-notch legal services.