Common-law marriage is when two people are considered married without ever applying for a marriage license. Oklahoma recognizes common law marriage. Common-law marriage usually becomes an issue if a couple that has lived together for a long period of time breaks up or when one of them dies and the surviving party wants to inherit the deceased’s belongings through probate.
Common-law marriage occurs when the parties agree that they married. A common law marriage is formed when ‘the minds of the parties meet in consent at the same time.’ Oklahoma Courts will consider and weigh the following factors to indicate whether or not a common law marriage has formed:
- An actual and mutual agreement between spouses to be husband and wife;
- A permanent relationship between the parties;
- An exclusive relationship;
- Cohabitation as spouses;
- The parties to the marriage must hold themselves out publicly as husband and wife;
- The parties’ listed marital status on legal documents.
Oklahoma Courts have stated, “Often the most persuasive evidence of the existence of a common-law marriage is whether the couple listed each other as a “spouse” on legal documents.” In probate issues, Oklahoma Court’s have looked primarily at the documentary evidence is written or signed by the deceased to determine whether a common-law marriage existed and the date was marriage was entered.
In order to establish common law marriage, the party claiming that a marriage existed must be proved the marriage by clear and convincing evidence.