What States Recognize Common Law Marriage Near Springfield, MO?

    What States Recognize Common Law Marriage Near Springfield, MO?

    Springfield, Missouri is located in the heart of the midwest. While Missouri itself does not recognize common-law marriage, there are several nearby states that do which could impact residents in the Springfield area. In this post, we will explore which states near Springfield allow common-law marriage and the specific criteria required to establish a common-law marriage in each state.


    A common-law marriage, also sometimes called an “informal marriage” or “deemed marriage”, develops between two people without obtaining a marriage license or having a marriage ceremony performed by an officiant like a judge, minister, or justice of the peace.

    Instead, a common-law marriage is formed through an implied contract between two eligible individuals who agree to be married, live together openly as a married couple, and hold themselves out to the community as being married.

    These three key factors – agreement to be married, cohabitation, and public presentation as a married couple – must all be present for the minimum required period of time set by each recognizing state.

    States Around Springfield, MO that Allow Common-Law Marriage

    Let’s look specifically at which states near Springfield, Missouri currently recognize common-law marriage, including required time periods to establish each type of marriage:

    Kansas – Kansas is one of 13 states that still recognize common-law marriage. To establish a common-law marriage in Kansas, the couple must satisfy all three common-law marriage requirements (agreement, cohabitation, public presentation) for at least one year.

    Arkansas – Arkansas also allows common-law marriages formed on or after July 27, 1957 as long as the three requirements are met for at least seven continuous years. For common-law marriages established before July 27, 1957, the duration requirement is shortened to one continuous year.

    Oklahoma – Like Arkansas, Oklahoma recognizes common-law marriages as long as the three criteria exist continuously and exclusively with one another for at least one year. Cohabitation alone does not establish a common-law marriage – there must be present intent between the partners to be married.

    Iowa – While Iowa is farther away from Springfield at 3-4 hours driving distance, the state does recognize common-law marriage so long as the criteria are fulfilled for at least three years without any period of separation or if there is a child born of the relationship.

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    Nebraska – To the north, Nebraska will recognize a common-law marriage if the three factors have continuously existed for at least 5 years between partners. Shorter duration is possible if factors like property acquisition or children are present.

    That covers the states closest to Springfield, Missouri that still allow common-law marriage formation. Let’s explore some practical implications and edge cases in more detail.

    Things to Know About Common Law Marriage Status

    Now that we’ve identified the states near Springfield that accept common-law marriage, it’s important to examine some additional nuances that could impact whether a common-law marriage is validly established or affects someone’s legal status:

    Common-law marriage can still be disputed – While the states above will recognize common-law marriage under certain conditions, one or both partners can later dispute that a common-law marriage validly existed if they do not meet all the required elements.

    Claims against a deceased partner’s estate – Establishing the existence of a common-law marriage is frequently an issue that arises when a partner passes away intestate (without a will) and heirs dispute inheritance rights of the surviving common-law spouse.

    Divorce is still required – Even though no license or ceremony was involved, legally separating common-law marriage partners will still need to go through the formal divorce process like any other marriage.

    Benefits may not transfer – While considered legally married, common-law spouses may encounter issues transferring significant other benefits like health insurance, life insurance, or pension benefits without proper documentation of dependent status.

    Bigamy risk if already married – If a party was still legally married to someone else, any attempted common-law marriage would constitute bigamy, or illegal polygamous marriage, and be deemed void and criminal in most states.

    Recognition across state lines – One state’s recognition of a valid common-law marriage formed elsewhere does not guarantee other states will extend the same legal status and rights to the relationship.

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    As you can see, while common-law marriage is still accepted as a lawful marital union in some nearby states, there are complexities that must be carefully considered, especially regarding inheritance rights, dissolution of the relationship, or benefits eligibility transfer between partners. Let’s examine a hypothetical case study.

    Hypothetical: A Common-Law Marriage Case Study

    To help illustrate some of these key common-law marriage implications further, let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario:

    John and Lisa met while attending Missouri State University in Springfield in 2010 and quickly fell in love. After graduating in 2014, they decided John would attend veterinary school in Manhattan, Kansas while Lisa took a job in Kansas City. Rather than maintain a long-distance relationship, they agreed to move in together in an apartment in Lawrence, Kansas in the summer of 2014 to share living expenses and build a life together while near John’s school.

    From that point on, John and Lisa introduced each other as husband and wife to neighbors, friends, and family. They exchanged commitment rings and generally held themselves out as a married couple. However, they never legally married or obtained a marriage license.

    This living arrangement continued seamlessly for over 7 years until John unexpectedly passed away in a car accident in March 2022 while back visiting Lisa in Springfield for her birthday weekend. John died without a will, so Lisa is now trying to assert her rights as John’s common-law spouse to inherit directly from his estate instead of the inheritance reverting to John’s living parents who never fully accepted Lisa.

    In this scenario:

    Kansas clearly recognizes common-law marriage since John and Lisa continuously cohabited and presented themselves as spouses well beyond the 1 year required time period in that state.

    However, establishing their common-law marriage status could still be disputed by John’s parents who never viewed Lisa as a legal daughter-in-law.

    Lisa would need to formally petition the Kansas courts and present convincing evidence that all 3 common-law marriage requirements were objectively satisfied for the necessary duration to establish her rightful standing as John’s lawful surviving spouse under Kansas law with entitlement to his entire estate.

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    If successful, she can then leverage the judicial recognition of her Kansas common-law marriage standing to assert similar inheritance rights from John’s estate assets distributed according to Missouri’s laws as the state where he unfortunately passed away.

    As a hypothetical, this case study demonstrates both the potential legal recognition and acceptance of common-law marriages formed long-term in states like Kansas, but also underscores the real-world complexities, obstacles, and emotional family challenges that can arise in trying to assert or dispute common-law marital status after the death of a spouse without formal documentation of the relationship. Pursuing justice and clarity through the court system becomes important in such boundary-pushing cases.

    Key Takeaways

    To summarize the key points covered about states allowing common-law marriage near Springfield, Missouri:

    Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska all continue recognizing lawful common-law marriages under certain eligibility criteria including duration cohabitation.

    Simply living together is not enough – intent and public representation as spouses is essential to any common-law marriage claim.

    Timeframes range 1-7 years depending on the state to validly establish a common-law union.

    Issues surrounding dissolution, estate or benefits disputes may complicate applying common-law marriage status across state lines.

    Careful documentation of evidence supporting an agreed marriage-like relationship is important should validity ever be legally questioned.

    Seeking clarity from local courts may become necessary if legitimacy disputed, such as from disapproving family contesting inheritance as our hypothetical explored.

    While no substitute for formal marriage, common-law marriage remains a viable legal marital option for qualifying couples residing near Missouri in multiple nearby states like Kansas.

    But seeking professional guidance is prudent if complex circumstances like estate issues or family tensions are involved for particular relationships. Understanding eligibility rules protects couples and deters misunderstandings down the road as well.



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