TMG-L ArchivesArchiver > TMG > 2008-08 > 1218682992
From: Dean Scribner <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] Tag for People Living Together
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2008 20:03:12 -0700
There is not now, nor has there ever been, such a thing as a "common law
marriage". Relationships have been declared to be, or not to be,
marriages, under Common Law, and then only when challenged in a court of
law. They have never been legally recognized as "common law marriages"
per se, but only as marriages which have been determined to exist under
the Common Law, after having been challenged in court. The term "common
law marriage" has no proper place in genealogy, because it refers to an
imaginary event which has never happened. Under the Common Law, marriage
can be determined to be a condition, not an event. In genealogy, one
assumes the existence of a marriage relationship based on the conditions
which would be expected to be recognized if tested under Common Law, but
should not be called "common law marriage". The recognition by one
jurisdiction of a relationship as marriage, will usually be considered a
"precedent" when the relationship's existence is questioned in another
jurisdiction. Anyway, there ain't no such thing as a "common law
marriage", and never has been. Marriage is two different things; one is
a contract entered into by two people at a certain time and place;
another is a condition implying the existence of such a contract, which
could be expected to be recognized under Common Law, if, and only if,
challenged. Whether a relationship is recognized under Common Law is
determined by the conditions present in each specific case. Statute Law
overrides Common Law if they conflict.
Ida Skarson McCormick writes:
Not all states recognize common law marriages. For example,
Washington State does not, except that it will recognize a legal
common-law marriage that occurred in another state that does
recognize legal common-law marriages, prior to the couple moving to
Washington State. It is legal terminology and should not be used
In the case that started this thread, one person engaged in the
liaison was not divorced from the legal spouse. Therefore, in this
case the liaison could not be a legal common-law marriage even if the
state/province allowed legal common-law marriage.
--Ida Skarson McCormick, , Seattle
At 04:56 PM 8/13/2008, Dean Scribner <> wrote:
>Imagine there is no official evidence of your marriage event, but:
>You are known as Mr. and Mrs.
>You appear in a census as husband and wife.
>You have filed joint tax returns as husband and wife.
>Now, try to prove in a court of law that you are not married.
>It would be easier and cheaper to get a divorce, than to prove you're
>married. That's where Common Law comes in, in all states. If it looks
>like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
>Bob Gillis writes:
> >I would make a new Tag as many, if not most, states do not recognize
>a"common law" marriage.>