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Is Illinois a common law marriage state?

If you and your significant other are living together in Illinois, you likely feel just as married as your friends who had wedding ceremonies. In fact, many of your friends may think the two of you really are married, especially if you have lived together for a long time and/or have children together.

Unfortunately, Illinois takes a much more restrictive view. As Unmarried.org explains, Illinois is not one of the states that recognizes common law marriage. However, there is one exception. If you and your significant other began your relationship in one of the states that does provide for common law marriages and then moved to Illinois, our state must recognize your marriage.

Common law marriage criteria

Each common law marriage state has its own specific criteria for how you can establish such a marriage, none of which have anything to do with how long you must live together before it becomes official. Rather, the main criterion usually is that you both “hold yourself out to be married.” You do this by means of one or more of the following:

  • You tell your family and friends that you are married.
  • You refer to each other as “my husband” and “my wife.”
  • You file joint income tax returns.
  • You use the same last name.

Despite the fact that many common law marriage spouses do indeed use the same last name, this is not an absolute must. If you are the woman in the relationship, you do not have to go to court to legally change your name to that of your common law husband. Instead, you can continue to use the legal name you had when you began living with him on such things as your Social Security card, your driver’s license, your bank accounts, your credit cards, etc. You likewise can use it on your joint tax returns and whenever the two of you apply for a joint loan. But if you wish to use his last name in social situations, that is fine, too.

Common law marriage recognition

As stated, Illinois is not a common law marriage state. That means that you cannot begin a live-in relationship in Illinois and expect that it will somehow become a legal marriage. However, once you establish your common law marriage in one of the states that allows them, Illinois and all other states must recognize it as valid. This is educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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