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Does Illinois Have Common Law Marriage?


Common law marriage is a term used to describe a marriage that is recognized by the law, even though it was not formally registered or solemnized through a ceremony. In some states, couples who live together for a certain period of time and meet certain criteria are considered to have a common law marriage. However, the laws regarding common law marriage vary from state to state. In this article, we will explore whether Illinois recognizes common law marriage.

Understanding Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage is a legal concept that originated in England and has been adopted by some states in the United States. It allows couples to be recognized as married without going through the formalities of a marriage ceremony or obtaining a marriage license. Instead, the couple must meet specific requirements set by the state.

Common Law Marriage in Illinois

Unlike some other states, Illinois does not recognize common law marriage. In order to be legally married in Illinois, couples must obtain a marriage license and have a marriage ceremony performed by a qualified officiant. Simply living together or presenting yourselves as a married couple does not establish a legal marriage in the eyes of the state.

Factors That Do Not Establish Common Law Marriage in Illinois

It is important to understand that there are certain factors that do not establish a common law marriage in Illinois. These include:

  • Living together for a certain period of time
  • Possessing joint bank accounts or property
  • Using the same last name
  • Introducing each other as husband and wife

While these factors may be indicative of a committed relationship, they do not carry the legal weight of a common law marriage in Illinois.

Legal Protections for Unmarried Couples

Although Illinois does not recognize common law marriage, unmarried couples can still take steps to protect their rights and interests. It is important to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law to understand the legal options available.

Some of the legal protections that unmarried couples may consider include:

  • Creating a cohabitation agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner
  • Establishing joint ownership of property through a written agreement
  • Creating a will or trust to ensure that each partner’s assets are distributed according to their wishes
  • Designating each other as beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts

By taking these steps, unmarried couples can establish legal protections and ensure that their rights are recognized in the event of a separation or the death of one partner.


While common law marriage is not recognized in Illinois, couples can still take proactive measures to protect their rights and interests. By consulting with a family law attorney and establishing legal agreements, unmarried couples can ensure that their relationship is legally recognized and that they have the necessary protections in place.

It is important to stay informed about the specific laws and regulations in your state regarding common law marriage and unmarried couples, as they may vary. Consulting with a legal professional is always recommended to ensure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities.

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