A common-law marriage may be briefly described as a marriage without formal solemnization or without formalities. Although mere cohabitation is insufficient to establish a common-law marriage, cohabitation is generally required as an element in the formation of a valid common-law marriage. In some jurisdictions, a common-law marriage may validly be contracted, but in others, it may not. Thirteen jurisdictions recognize common-law marriages if contracted within that state: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia (no further common law marriages may be entered into after January 1, 1997), Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (until 2003), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Although other jurisdictions do not themselves recognize common-law marriages, a common-law marriage contracted in a sister state will be recognized as valid if it is valid where contracted (such as New Jersey, California, New York).
[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]