Taxes and Common Law Marriage 1

The Financial Aspects of a Common Law Marriage

Since the income-splitting tax code of 1948, it has been commonly known that being married or single directly affects the way you file your Federal Income Taxes. These filing differences affected both your tax bracket as well as your available deductions and credits.

But what happens when the couple isn’t formally married? What happens if the marriage is common law ?

The first thing to consider when dealing with taxes and a common law marriage is to determine if your state recognizes common law unions in the first place. Currently, eleven states provide for common law marriages and in addition, federal law requires that all states recognize a common law marriage if it was enacted in a state with legal provisions for such a union.

What does this mean for you?

In order to claim that you are married by common law, you must have been “married” in a state that recognized common law marriages and met the requirements set forth by that state. Assuming this is the case, you would be considered as legally married and could file your federal taxes as either married filing jointly or married filing separately.

How this filing will affect your taxes of course depends upon a number of factors, including your incomes, your deductions and various available tax credits. Couples with larger incomes could be affected by the marriage tax penalty .

If, however, you have not met the common law requirements or if your state does not provide for common law marriages, then you must continue to file as a single person.

It should also be noted that there is no such thing as a common law divorce so, once “legally” married, you must continue to file as a married couple (albeit separately) until a legal divorce has been obtained.

Are you seeking legal advice?

Don’t waste your time and money by hiring an expensive lawyer!

Get fast, cheap, expert legal advice from real lawyers at

The process is dead simple:

1) Ask your detailed question.

2) Get an answer from a lawyer that specializes in your issue.

3) Resolve your issue and be on your way. :)

Click the button below to get access to your special free trial.

Please note this is a special offer for visitors of this site and will not last forever!


  • Gail

    I am committing to a common law marriage and do not want to change by birth given last name. Is this “okay” and can I just sign my first and last name on the document before it is notarized as I want it to be?