Oklahoma has long recognized common law marriage. There is no minimum time period of living together, and parties cannot simply wake up and find themselves married by virtue of their cohabitation. Common law marriage requires the parties to agree they are married, and they must consent to this agreement at the same time. It also requires the parties be in a permanent exclusive relationship and that they cohabitate and hold themselves out publicly as husband and wife.
If a court finds the parties are common law married, they must get a divorce to end the marriage, just as if they obtained a marriage license and held a marriage ceremony. A finding of common law marriage can protect a parties’ interest in retirement accounts, real estate purchased during the marriage, and other investments. A party to a common law marriage may also be eligible for alimony, while parties that cohabitated but are not married may not obtain alimony.
The most persuasive evidence of common law marriage are legal documents wherein the parties list each other as spouse. These documents might include: joint tax returns, mortgages, loan applications and deeds. Other evidence of a common law marriage can include: birthday or anniversary cards addressing the other party as “spouse”, testimony of third parties that the couple introduced each other as husband and wife, and testimony that the parties engaged in conduct expected of married couples (family Christmas cards, celebrating their anniversary, raising a family together and taking family vacations).
In a divorce action for a common law marriage, a party can obtain a division of marital assets, alimony, child custody, visitation determination and child support.