July 21, 2019

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Common-Law Marriage and Wrongful Death in Oklahoma


Oklahoma is one of the few states where you can still form a legally binding common-law marriage. And, like all states, Oklahoma must recognize out-of-state common-law marriages that meet the requirements of that states in which they were formed. This is important in wrongful death cases because as the surviving spouse you have rights that you do not have as a non-married partner, even if you had children together. But, make no mistake, common-law marriage is tricky territory, in any state.

Was Your Common-Law Marriage Legally Valid?

Common-law marriage is not an automatic result of living together for seven years, as many people believe, nor is it established by having simply a child together. In Oklahoma, you must meet certain requirements:

  • You both agreed that you were a married couple. Being engaged doesn’t count.
  • You were both legally free to marry. Old enough and not married to someone else.
  • You lived together or consummated the marriage.
  • You held yourselves out publicly as a married couple.

The difficult part comes in when you must prove, in court, that your marriage met these requirements.

Planning Ahead in Oklahoma

Although common-law marriage affords you all the same rights and responsibilities as ceremonial marriage, it can create legal challenges for the surviving spouse if one spouse dies. The applies to wrongful death lawsuits and to other issues that arise such as inheritance and the more mundane business that must be taken care of. The informal nature of common-law marriage can make it difficult to prove your status as the surviving spouse creating very serious problems during a time that is already impossibly difficult.

If you are currently in a common-law marriage, or planning to be, consider talking to an experienced Oklahoma family law attorney about what you can do to establish the evidence necessary to prove the existence of your marriage and protect each other should something happen to either of you in the future.

To learn more about common-law marriage wrongful death and your legal rights, please contact us today to be connected to an experienced Oklahoma wrongful death attorney.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.