Does Common Law Marriage Still Exist in Oklahoma?

common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not obtained a marriage license or had a wedding ceremony. This type of marriage is formed when a couple lives together and holds themselves out as married.

Common law marriage has a long history in Oklahoma. While not as prevalent today, it still exists and impacts the legal rights of many couples across the state. This article will provide a comprehensive look at common law marriage in Oklahoma – from its current legal standing, to the rights and requirements involved, proof standards, and more.

Does Common Law Marriage Still Exist in Oklahoma?

  • Yes, common law marriage is still legally valid in the state of Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma recognizes both ceremonial marriages and common law marriages equally under the law.
  • There have been no recent legislative changes to abolish or modify common law marriage recognition in Oklahoma.
  • The requirements for establishing a common law marriage remain intact. Couples who meet these requirements can still enter into a legally binding marital union without a license or ceremony.

So while less ubiquitous today, common law marriage remains a part of Oklahoma’s legal framework surrounding marital rights and families.

What Rights Do I Have in a Common Law Marriage?

Individuals in a legally valid common law marriage have most of the same rights and responsibilities as those in a ceremonial marriage. These include:

  • Inheritance rights – If one spouse dies without a will, the other has a right to inherit their property under intestate succession laws.
  • Medical decisions – Spouses can make medical decisions for each other if incapacitated.
  • Parenting rights – Legal parentage of children born during the marriage.
  • Spousal benefits – Social security, veterans affairs benefits, health insurance, etc.
  • Alimony rights – Eligibility for alimony in the event of separation or divorce.
  • Tax benefits – Ability to file joint tax returns and claim marital tax deductions.
  • Property rights – Marital property laws apply to division of assets and debts.

So in most aspects, common law marriages grant partners the same advantages as ceremonial marriage in Oklahoma. Consulting a legal professional is still advised to understand how your specific situation may be impacted.

What Are the Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma?

For a common law marriage to be valid in Oklahoma, certain requirements laid out in legal statutes and case law precedent must be met. These generally include:

  • Cohabitation – Couple lives together for a significant period of time.
  • Intent – Both partners must intend and agree to enter into a marital relationship.
  • Holding out – Couple represents to others that they are married.
  • Legal capacity – Both individuals are legally able to marry.
  • Exclusivity – Partners are monogamous with a single spouse.

To fully satisfy these standards, parties should:

  • Live together continuously for a minimum of 7 years.
  • Refer to each other publicly as spouses.
  • File joint tax returns.
  • Share insurance policies and bank accounts.
  • Raise children together.

Meeting these benchmarks makes it more straightforward to prove a common law marriage exists.

How Do I Prove I Have a Valid Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma?

Proving a common law marriage in Oklahoma requires providing documentation and evidence to demonstrate the requirements were satisfied. Useful forms of proof include:

  • Tax returns – Joint returns listing the other as spouse.
  • Bank records – Joint accounts and shared billing statements.
  • Insurance – Being listed as the spouse on policies.
  • Employment records – Emergency contact and beneficiary listings.
  • Business records – Incorporation filings, licenses, leases showing shared ownership.
  • Birth certificates – Being named as a child’s parent.
  • Mail – Letters and cards addressed to the couple.
  • Photos – Images showing cohabitation.
  • Affidavits – Third party sworn statements verifying the relationship.

Building a strong body of consistent evidence along these lines can validate the existence of a common law marriage even without a formal certificate.

How Do I Prove I Have a Valid Common Law Marriage in Oklahoma?

Common Law Marriage and Same-Sex Couples in Oklahoma

  • Since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples have had the right to marry, including common law marriage.
  • Prior to this, Oklahoma only recognized common law marriages between heterosexual couples.
  • Now, same-sex partners must simply fulfill the standard Oklahoma common law marriage requirements detailed above. Their gender has no legal bearing.
  • Same-sex couples can now enjoy all the same rights, benefits, and protections of common law marriage.

So the Obergefell decision granted same-sex couples full marital equality, including common law unions. Oklahoma law no longer distinguishes based on gender or sexual orientation.

How to End a Common Law Marriage

There are two options for legally ending a common law marriage in Oklahoma:


  • Partners must live entirely separate lives – financially, residentially, socially.
  • Physical separation alone is not enough. Complete disentanglement is required.
  • After a statutory separation period (likely 10 years), spouses can seek a determination that the common law marriage has dissolved.

Divorce Petition

  • One or both partners can file for divorce in court on standard grounds like irreconcilable differences.
  • The divorce process is very similar for common law and ceremonial marriages.
  • The court will divide marital assets and debts equitably and finalize dissolution of the marriage.
  • This is typically the most unambiguous way to terminate a common law union.

In either case, it is wise to obtain legal counsel to ensure your rights are protected and proper procedures are followed.

What Are My Rights Without a Common Law Marriage?

Living together outside of a valid common law marriage or ceremonial marriage leads to substantially fewer legal rights and protections in Oklahoma. Without marital status, partners:

  • Have no rights to each other’s property in the event of separation or death.
  • Do not have inheritance rights.
  • Are not entitled to spousal insurance, benefits, or Social Security.
  • Have no authority to make medical decisions for each other if incapacitated.
  • Establishing legal parentage of children can be more difficult.
  • Are not eligible for alimony or spousal support if the relationship ends.
  • May be subject to gift tax on shared property transfers.

To safeguard one’s assets and rights in this situation, partners can:

  • Draw up cohabitation agreements outlining property division.
  • Grant medical power of attorney.
  • Draft wills and designate beneficiaries.
  • File for legal parentage determination.
  • Review insurance policies and accounts to add partner where possible.


Common law marriage is an important institution in Oklahoma that grants couples meaningful rights and protections. While the standards for establishing a valid common law union can be complex, doing so provides significant legal and financial advantages. Same-sex partners now also receive full recognition. Overall, common law marriage remains a relevant fixture in Oklahoma’s legal landscape that impacts many families across the state.