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Does Illinois Recognize Common Law Marriage?

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What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage consists of two individuals living together who have not been legally married but who present themselves to others as “married.” These individuals may have lived together for months or years and may even have children and property they share. These types of “marriages” have been around for more than a hundred years but are rarely recognized today. Only a few states in the U.S. acknowledge common law marriages and even those have serious restrictions. Furthermore, what is recognized as a common law marriage in these few states vary.

Does Illinois Recognize Common Law Marriage?

The state of Illinois does not recognize common law marriage. In our state, in order to be “married,” you must obtain a valid marriage license and proceed with the marriage ceremony to achieve that status. Couples who live together in an unmarried state generally have few legal rights other than parental rights unless they have entered into a Cohabitation Agreement. In some instances, however, if you achieved a recognizable common law marriage in another state, you may have a chance of having it acknowledged by a court here. However, these cases are very hard to prove in the absence of verifiable written agreements.

For seasoned legal guidance in any Illinois family law issue, contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. at for a confidential, initial case review.

What States Recognize Common Law Marriages?

ColoradoIowaKansasMontanaAlabamaRhode IslandTexasSouth CarolinaUtahDistrict of Columbia

Cohabitation Agreements in Illinois

The best way to ensure that you have all the legal benefits of marriage is through the legal contract of an Illinois marriage. The traditional contract of a legal marriage automatically protects your rights to marital property and finances as well as to child custody and support and, in some cases, to spousal support.

Those who prefer to live together who wish to protect certain rights associated with legally-valid marriages may be able to do so through a thorough and properly-executed cohabitation agreement. These agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements which state how certain property and finances will be handled and distributed should the couple’s marriage end in divorce or death.

An Illinois cohabitation agreement can be put into writing either before or after a couple has decided to live together.

These agreements may address the following issues:

  • What each party’s contribution to the household expenses will be
  • How payment of the couple’s mutual debts will be handled
  • How their commingled property will be divided should their relationship end
  • How health insurance coverage will be handled
  • What each party’s parental responsibilities will be

Having such an agreement in place can help the individuals involved avoid future conflict. Property that can be designated in such an agreement can include real estate, household goods, investments, vehicles, and more. However, these agreements cannot lay out the terms of child custody or child support that must be decided and ordered by a family law court.

Turn to the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. Serving Chicago

No matter what your family law issue may be, whether divorce, child custody, or other matter, you can depend on the capable legal service of our firm. Attorney Jonathan Merel was an accomplished family law attorney for years prior to founding his law offices in 2009. Our legal team has extensive experience in this field and offers one-on-one personalized legal service and support to clients throughout Chicago. With offices downtown as well as in Skokie and Highland Park, we encourage you to take advantage of our dedication to providing outstanding family law representation in the area.

Reach out to our firm at today.


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