Is Common Law Marriage Legal in the State of Massachusetts?
With October here, I have been thinking about my wedding day lately. I was married back on Oct. 10, 2008, right here in Berkshire County, Williamstown to be exact with the reception in Pittsfield. It was a beautiful fall foliage day in the Berkshires and everything went off without a hitch. Every now and again, my wife and I will pull out our wedding DVD and sit back and just laugh at all of the crazy dancing we did on our day. Our guests were into it. There was even one point where my friend and kidney donor, John Pitroff had a dance-off with me to classic Michel Jackson and Tone Loc. This was nine years before John donated his kidney to me. We go back pretty far.
What is Common Law Marriage?
As I have been thinking about my wedding anniversary coming up, I have thought about some Berkshire couples that I have known for a while who have been living together for a long time. They would joke with me and say things like "we're practically married" or "we're in a common law marriage" but are they really?
I've always heard that if you have been living together for seven years or more then you're in a common-law marriage but I didn't know for sure if that was fact or fiction. According to NPR, it's fiction, myth, bogus...call it what you want. Common law marriage doesn't just automatically kick in after seven years. According to NCSL, a common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not purchased a marriage license or had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony. So it has to be recognized (and only a handful of states recognize common law marriage), it doesn't just automatically happen. You can learn more by going here and here.
Is Common Law Marriage Allowed/Recognized by the State of Massachusetts?
Massachusetts does not allow or recognize common law marriage no matter how long a Bay State couple has been together. They're not married until they officially get hitched. However, these couples can obtain a cohabitation agreement. According to the attorney, Alan Pransky, a cohabitation agreement is a contract made by unmarried people who live together or plan to live together to define their relationship. You can read more about this by going here. It is worth noting that if a couple lived in a state that does recognize common law marriage prior to moving to Massachusetts, then the Bay State will recognize them as spouses. You can check out all of the details and challenges that go along with this by going here.
Bottom Line for Massachusetts Couples
If you want to be recognized as a married couple, make it official. It can be done inexpensively and quietly if that suits your fancy.