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Legal Information: Federal


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Laws current as of May 29, 2024

Does a common law marriage count as being “married to” the abuser?

A common law marriage could count as a marriage for immigration purposes if the laws of the state or country where you had the relationship recognize common law marriages. For a list of US states that recognize common-law marriage and each state’s legal requirements, you can go to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. You will need to work with an immigration lawyer to put together the documents to prove your common law marriage.

Immigration officials may look at the following factors to determine if you have a valid common law marriage:

  • When and where did the relationship begin?
  • What was the intent of you and the abuser with respect to what the relationship was to be?
  • Were you generally known as spouses by neighbors, friends, and the community?
  • Did either of you introduce one another as a spouse?
  • Did either of you purchase a life insurance policy describing one or the other as the beneficiary spouse?
  • Is there birth registration or school registration of your children showing each of you as the parents?
  • Is there a credit card account describing one of you as the spouse of the other?
  • Did either of you name the other one as the beneficiary spouse of the other’s pension rights?
  • Is there any other information that would tend to demonstrate that you both have, from the beginning, lived the type of existence that would be normal for a lawfully married couple?1

1 See USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 3, Part D, Chapter 2(B)