In movies and stories we hear about common law marriage. However, common law marriage isn’t common. What we mean by this is that not every state recognizes common law marriage. The reason this is an important question that must be answered is because under the Full Faith and Credit provision of the United States Constitution, each state can determine for its own citizens how and when marriage occurs. This is why there is no federal definition of marriage.
Some states allow for common law marriage while others do not. For example, Colorado recognizes common law marriage while New Mexico does not. Two states that border each other but define marriage very differently. This inquiry becomes very relevant when identifying the rights of parties. Thus, if a couple acquires a house in Colorado and meet the requirements of common law marriage, then the house gets divided under marital laws. That same situation in New Mexico would be handled very differently as the couple was not married. Common law marriage can have a drastic impact on the division of property and debts and even identify the extent in which one’s rights reach. In conclusion, do not be swayed by the Hollywood declaration of common law marriage and understand that common law marriage isn’t necessarily common.