What Exactly is Common Law Marriage?

It is a misconception that a common law marriage is created simply by two parties living together for a certain period of time (i.e., 7 years).  To the contrary, in Montana, a person seeking to establish a common law marriage must show that:

  1. That the parties are competent to enter marriage;
  2. That there was assumption of a marital relationship by mutual consent and agreement;
  3. That they cohabited; and
  4. That they acquired the reputation, character and status of marriage in public.

In Montana, there is a rebuttable presumption that a man and woman “deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage.” § 26–1–602(30), MCA.  In fact, the law favors finding a marriage. 

Once parties have entered into a common law marriage, however, it cannot be undone.  There is no such thing as a common law divorce.  Parties who have entered marriage must seek a dissolution of marriage the same way as other married couples wishing to end their marriage.  For more information about common law marriage, visit:  http://courts.mt.gov/library/topic/common_law_marriage.