I grew up in a time during the 80s when I heard many unmarried guys call their wives “My Old Lady”, even though they weren't technically married.

These were the couples that preferred to lived in the same house as a couple without the government getting all up in their business. They lived together forever but for whatever reason never jumped the broom, had an official wedding, or ever signed a marriage license at the Courthouse.

My Old Lady - A Popular Common Law Marriage Term Back in the Day
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In Canada, shacking up for at least 1 year of “continuous conjugal cohabitation” gives romantically linked roomies the status of “common law marriage”.

Which states in the Pacific Northwest recognize common law marriages? The answer might shock you.

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WHAT IS A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?

What Is a Common Law Marriage
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A common law marriage in layman's terms is simplistic terminology for a “domestic partnership” or “civil union.”

“Common-law marriages have three basic features: (1) A present agreement to be married, (2) cohabitation, and (3) public representations of marriage.” - IRS Revised Rules 13-17

WHICH AMERICAN STATES RECOGNIZE A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?

Not Many States Have Common Law Marriage Laws Anymore
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Most states and territories do not recognize domestic partnerships. The ones that do include: Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, Washington D.C., South Carolina, Kansas, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Texas.

In these 11 states and territories, couples that live together for a certain number of years get to enjoy specific tax benefits from the IRS. During tax time, couples in domestic partnerships are allowed to file tax returns jointly if they so choose, claim head of household*, and get to deduct any applicable personal exemptions. Whoever supports the household

FUN FACT: If you live in a state that currently recognizes common law marriage and then move to a state that doesn’t, you can still claim those marriage benefits in the new state.

If you live together for years and years in Washington, Oregon, and California, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been shacking up. Your relationship will still not equal a common law marriage.

BENEFITS OF NOT GETTING MARRIED IN WA, OR, AND CA

BENEFITS OF NOT GETTING MARRIED IN WA, OR, AND CA
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Since Washington, Oregon, nor California recognizes common law marriage, you still have the benefits of:

  • Claiming your joint children as dependents

  • Right to any property or properties gained during your cohabiting relationship if both names are on the deed

  • No responsibility for any debts or liens incurred by the other partner if both of your names are not on the deed, liens, or loans

  • Joint access to any Court-ordered parenting plans and child support payments

Pacific Northwest Domestic Partnership State Sources:

*You can only file as head of household if you provide housing and financial support to a qualifying dependent. This dependent must have lived with you the entire calendar year and lived in your residence.

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