We all likely think of marriage as a big production, right? Wedding, reception, a rehearsal dinner, bridal shower the whole nine yards. But if you skip that and run to a courthouse, in the eyes of the law, that's just as good, right?

Well, what if you skip even that step? Can you still be married in the eyes of the state of Iowa? Actually, you can be.

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Iowa is a state with common law marriage

I saw an article on our sister station KISS FM in Lubbock, Texas. The discussion was about common law marriage. Something I personally was not familiar with. I did some investigating and, it's something that Iowa recognizes.

Let's break down what common law marriage is. The website NCSL.org describes it as:

A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not purchased a marriage license or had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony.

Very few states actually recognize these common law marriages. Iowa is one that does. But, what does it mean? Can any couple that lives together for a few years just declare themselves married? Well, possibly... but not exactly.

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash
Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

Iowa Legal Aid has more info on what a common law marriage in Iowa is all about.

  • Both persons have to consider themselves married
  • The couple does have to live together - though no length of time is specified
  • The couple has to appear married publically (i.e. filing tax returns as a married couple)

What this all means is, that both people have to not only live together but have to 100% agree that they are married. Both individuals do not need to have the same last name, nor do they need to have anything checked off by the state of Iowa.

With regards to how "normal" a common law marriage is, the site Iowa Legal Aid also explains,

A person who has a marriage by common law has the same legal rights as a person who was married in a religious ceremony or in front of a judge or magistrate.

In other words, it's essentially identical to any couple that was married by an officiant. So if you and your partner live together, you can tell your friends and family you're married. At least while you're living in the state of Iowa.

OH, and no, there's no common law divorce. You still have to go to court for that. Sorry.

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