common law marriageCouples in common-law marriages are entitled to the same Social Security benefits as traditional marriages and may be eligible for Social Security benefits (spousal, survivor, and death benefits) based on their spouses' or former spouses' earnings record if two conditions are met.

The first condition is that the couple must live in a state where common-law marriages are legal (or did so when the marriage began). Generally, a married couple is common-law married when they live together for a period of time (cohabitation) and they hold themselves out to friends, family, and the community as "married". Cohabitation as an unmarried couple is not enough to establish a common-law marriage.

Here is a list of all states that fully recognize common-law marriage.

  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas

If you live in a state that does not recognize common-law marriage, you’re out of luck as far as Social Security is concerned.

The couple also must be able to prove to Social Security that they are in such a relationship. That’s the second required condition. Here is the evidence you will need to submit to the Social Security Administration to prove that you were in a valid common law marriage:

  • If both spouses are alive each spouse will need to provide statements confirming the marriage and submit statements regarding the marriage from a blood relative of each partner. 
  • If your spouse has died you must submit our own statement along with statements from two blood relatives of your deceased spouse which affirm the marriage.

In some cases, you may be able to submit other evidence to support your claim of a common law marriage, such as a ruling affirming the marriage by a court or other agency.



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska