Common-Law Marriage

Common-Law Marriages after 1996 are not recognized in Idaho.

Occasionally, I encounter couples that are living together, but have never gone through a formal marriage ceremony. This situation raises the issue of common-law marriage, which is widely misunderstood. Common-law marriages entered into before January 1, 1996 are recognized in Idaho. However, after January 1, 1996, Idaho does not recognize common-law marriage—consent to marry alone will not constitute a marriage; it must be followed by the issuance of a license and a solemnization ceremony. (Idaho Code  32-201)

If you are trying to prove that you have a common-law marriage, that was entered into prior to 1996, you would have to establish the following four requirements: (1) The man and the woman must both have been eighteen years of age or older; (2) they must have consented with each other to be husband and wife; (3) after they consented the parties both assumed marital rights, duties, and obligations to each other—this requires that they lived together as husband and wife, treated each other in a manner typical of married people, and held themselves out as husband and wife; and (4) this was done while living in the state of Idaho.

By abolishing common-law marriage in 1996, Idaho eliminated much of the uncertainty, ambiguity and inconsistencies that surrounded common-law marriage.

Living together in Idaho after 1996, without a solemnization of your marriage, may affect your eligibility for Social Security and Medicaid benefits. In addition, you will not inherit from your significant other unless they have made provisions for you in their Will.

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.

July 2018