Common law marriage in Oklahoma. Does it exist? The answer is YES!
Oklahoma is one of about eight states that recognizes common law marriage. Despite the Oklahoma legislature’s attempt to ban common law marriage with HB1455 in 2005, it is still alive and well. The bar has been raised, it is not easy to prove, and there is still some contention about the effectiveness of post-1998 common-law marriages. But, at the end of the day a common law marriage in Oklahoma can exist. It MUST be proven by the actions of the parties. Under Oklahoma law, there are five elements of a common law marriage:
(1) an actual and mutual agreement between the spouses to be husband and wife;
(2) a permanent relationship;
(3) an exclusive relationship;
(4) cohabitation as husband and wife (there is a split of authority on this one); and
(5) the parties hold themselves out publicly as husband and wife.
The party that wants to prove a marital relationship must prove that each element is met by clear and convincing evidence. This can be done with evidence such as joint income tax returns, joint financial accounts, jointly held assets, joint credit, medical records, insurance records, introductions and comments to third parties, hotel receipts, and any number of other sources. Each element must be proven; if one is missing there will be no marital relationship. In my experience the most compelling proof of common law marriage is when one “spouse” lists the other as their spouse on their insurance forms or governmental documents such as tax forms. Using the husband’s last name has almost always played into the Court’s weighing of the evidence when deciding; if the husband’s last name was used, the Court usually weighed that in favor of finding a marital relationship. The date of the common law marriage can be very important. It can determine offsets to child support, entitlement to benefits, and allocation of assets such as retirement accounts on separation. Always be aware that if you met the requirements listed above and you resided in Oklahoma you have the same rights at the end of the relationship as the spouse of a licensed marriage.
I hope you found it helpful. If there are other topics which you would like to read about or issues with which I can address for you, let me know and I will try to devote a post or two to your interests. Please feel free to send an email to john@johnhgraves and I will respond as quickly as possible.