Common Law Marriage in Utah

Common Law Marriage in Utah

Contrary to popular belief, only a few states recognize common law marriages. Many people still assume that by living together for a period and holding themselves out as man and wife, they attain the rights of being married. Often people think the magic number of years is seven.

The reality is that Utah does not recognize common law marriage. To have a valid marriage in Utah, you need to marry formally under the eyes of the law. Parties who cohabit or live together without a church or civil ceremony cannot generally attain the rights that a married couple does upon divorce.

Children born out of wedlock have the right to support by both parents, but spousal support will not be awarded, nor does either party have a clear claim to equitable distribution of assets. Without a marriage license, you are not legally entitled to inherit if your partner dies.

One way to have a common law marriage recognized is via the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. If a couple lives in a non-common law state such as Utah, but visits a common law state and follows the requirements for a common law marriage in that state, and then returns to Utah, a claim of validity of the marriage may hold up in certain circumstances.

What is a Common Law Marriage?

Marriage is a legal union of two consenting people, and once married, their responsibilities and rights regarding property and support are outlined per state law. There are many people who believe that cohabitation for a certain length of time leads to you being automatically considered married in the eyes of the state — a term known as “common law” marriage. However, there are only a few states that actually recognize common law marriages:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Some other states recognize common law marriages that were established before state laws abolished them, such as Georgia (before 1997), Idaho (before 1996), Ohio (before 1991) and Pennsylvania (before 2005). Kentucky recognizes common law marriages for workers’ compensation benefits only, and New Hampshire recognizes them for inheritance purposes only.

In all other states, including Utah, you must have had a ceremony and have a valid marriage license to be considered legally married. If you have had a common law marriage in one of the above states, but move to a state that does not recognize this type of marriage, the new state will still recognize it as a legal common law marriage as long as it was properly formed in the previous state.

The specific standards for what constitutes a common law marriage vary from state to state. Usually, the amount of time necessary for such a marriage to be considered legal is seven to 10 years.

What Type of Property Should Stay Separate After You Get Married?

After you get married, all of your property gets classified either as marital property (also known as community property) and non-marital property (also known as separate property). Marital property is any property gained after the marriage, while separate property is property that you owned before the start of the marriage.

There are certain types of property that you should take care to keep separate even after you are married. These include the following:

  • Shares in family business. If you have an ownership stake in your family business and the intent of your family is to keep control among immediate family members, then you should make sure that all of your shares of the business stay held in your name only. There is the option for your spouse to get a marital property interest in your share, or limit the claim your spouse has to the value of your business in a prenuptial agreement.
  • Gifts and inheritance. Even when acquired after marriage, financial gifts and inheritance are always considered to be separate property. If real property is included, however, you might want to take some extra steps to make sure that it is held only in your name.
  • Property from a prior marriage. If you wish to pass on property from a previous marriage to your children from that previous marriage, then you should make sure to keep it as separate property so that children in your new relationship do not have the same claim to that property.

Keep in mind that the classification of your property can change. If, for example, you use separate property for marital reasons during the course of your marriage, this property may become shared in the eyes of the law.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

Recent Posts

Contract Basics

How Long Does It Take To Fill Out Bankruptcy Paperwork

How OFten Are Convictions on Appeal Overturned

Eviction Lawyers for Landlords

Shield Assets During Divorce

Business Debt Collection

Ending a Common Law Marriage

Ending a Common Law Marriage

In some states, including Utah, couples are considered married after being living together for a long period of time, sharing finances, and hold themselves as married. Common law couples act just as married couples, except they are not required to get a marriage license, and have a traditional ceremony.  If you choose to end a common law marriage, it’s important you understand these laws and find experienced legal representation from a Salt Lake City divorce attorney


Some requirements in common law marriages in the State of Utah include:

  • Parties are of legal age, at least 18 years old.
  • They cohabited before common law marriage Utah.
  • They can lawfully enter into solemnized marriage.
  • They hold themselves as married even before common law was implemented in Utah.
  • They assume marital obligations, rights, and duties within the common law marriage.



Although there are laws that address common law marriage in the states allowing such unions, some specific things are considered in order to recognize a common law marriage Utah or any other state recognizing common law:

  • The parties signed power of attorney papers while still being in the relationship.
  • The marriage took place in a state where such unions are allowed.

Common law marriage Utah can be validated within another state but some factors such as a separation or divorce are considered. Some things the court generally considers to validate a common law marriage in Utah include:

  • Parties cohabitated either in Utah or another state where such marriages are legal.
  • There are common law marriage requirements established by the out of state jurisdiction.
  • The court can establish the date of the common law marriage.
  • The court may determine whether there were POA documents signed before cohabitation.


The procedure for a getting a divorce it’s exactly the same as married couples. You need to file papers in order for the court to dissolve your marriage and divide property accumulated throughout the years you lived together. If you had children, the court will determine child custody and child support. Alimony can also be petitioned. Some other things to think about are:

  • Property division– If parties can’t agree on how to divide their assets, the court will be able to determine and rule on this issue after receiving submissions from both parties. You can also have a mediator to help you work out a fair agreement on marital property division.
  • Debts– The individual under whose name the debt appears is responsible to pay the debt. Sometimes agreements can be made where one of the spouses can pay a specific debt. However, the primary borrower is always responsible to pay off the debt, even when the other party fails to pay as agreed.
  • Divorce may not be necessary– In some cases, a divorce may not be necessary if the couple has only lived together for so long and have only a few joint assets, friendly breakups in couples with no children, or a relationship where they can reach an agreement about their property and assets.


Perhaps you want to end a relationship with the person you live with but you are not sure if your union is considered a common law marriage that may require a divorce. Whether you are legally married or not, a separation can be a difficult process. With the help of a Salt Lake City divorce attorney, you will be able to figure out where you stand and move forward to better horizons.


In almost every marriage, couples fight. Even happy couples have disputes from time to time. Sometimes, though, these arguments get out of hand and turn physical. Physical abuse between husbands and wives is never acceptable in Utah. Domestic violence is serious and protections are available for those living in fear of physical or emotional abuse.

According the Ogden, Utah Police Department and local women’s shelters, incidents of domestic violence seem to be increasing. They say more education and further prevention methods are necessary to stop this increase. Last year, the Ogden Police Department had 32 cases of domestic violence during the month of August. This year, that number rose to 44 by month end.

Furthermore, a local women’s shelter has reported that it has had to turn away 45 people — both adults and children — during the month of August because it had reached its capacity of 30 people. This women’s shelter also alleges that there are many more cases of abuse than police are seeing since it averages about four calls a day to its domestic abuse hotline.

In Utah, in order for police to arrest someone for domestic violence, the police need to identify who the primary aggressor was in the fight. Police do this by listening to each party’s story, examining the physical evidence and looking for other signs of abuse. This is not a perfect science and mistakes can be made resulting in people being falsely accused of abuse. Furthermore, when police can’t determine who the primary aggressor was, then the abuser may not be arrested at all.

It is important for people in and around Salt Lake City to understand that they have legal options after a domestic violence incident. There are ways for those who have been falsely accused to clear their name and return to normal life, and there are ways for people to protect themselves from abusers. Taking the correct legal steps is often essential in protecting people and their families.

Free Consultation with a Utah Divorce Attorney

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you. Call now.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews

Recent Posts

Depositions in Divorce

Insurance During Divorce

Probate Without a Will

Does a 14 year old child’s opinion matter in a Custody Battle?

Joint Wills

Utah Motorcycle Attorney