Common Law Marriage in Virginia

A "common law marriage" is one in which the parties may hold themselves out as a husband and wife, and under certain circumstances, be deemed married without a marriage license or ceremony.

Virginia does not allow the creation of a "common law" marriage, a relationship in which a couple lives together but have not participated in a lawful ceremony. Unlike some other states, in Virginia a couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. You do not need legal action to end such a relationship, if it was created in Virginia.

However, Virginia does recognize as valid, common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met. As a result, legal action is needed to dissolve legal "common law" marriages performed in other states and foreign countries in compliance with their licensing and ceremonial regulations. The courts are available for determining the rights of parties now living in Virginia.

As long as a couple lives together as husband and wife, the question of validity of their marriage is unlikely to arise. However, for purposes of inheritance or the benefits of pension plans or social security, a valid marriage is required.

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