TN 29 (05-01)
GN 00305.080 Navajo Tribal Common-Law Marriages
A. Policy -- navajo tribal common-law marriages
1. Claims Adjudicated On Or After 4/10/81 And Before 4/23/93
a. Date of Inception of Marriage Prior to 8/2/89
The Navajo Indian Nation recognized common-law marriages between tribal members living on the reservation if these marriages meet the elements universally recognized as constituting a common-law marriage (agreement to be married, cohabitation, and holding out to the public as being married). Such a marriage may be validated by the Courts of the Navajo Nation upon application and submission of proof that the persons involved have entered into such a marriage and are recognized as husband and wife in their community.
b. Date of Inception of Marriage 8/2/89 or Later
Common-law marriages arising on or after 8-2-89 were not recognized. (This is the date of the Navajo Supreme Court decision.)
2. Claims Adjudicated On or After 4/23/93
Effective April 23, 1993, the Navajo Nation recognized the validity of common-law marriages between any persons living on the Navajo reservation, if these marriages met the criteria set by the Navajo Family or Peacekeeping Courts on behalf of the Navajo Office of Vital Records. Such a marriage may be validated by these local courts upon application and submission of proof that the persons involved have entered into such a marriage and are recognized as husband and wife in their community. The date of inception of the marriage will be calculated by either of these local courts for the Navajo Office of Vital Records.
B. Procedure -- navajo tribal common-law marriages
Effective April 23, 1993, the Navajo Nation Code provides for common-law marriages. In order to establish a common-law marriage, the couple must show that they intended to be husband and wife and consented to the marriage; they lived together; and they held themselves out to the community as married. The Family or Peacemaker Courts of the Navajo Nation may issue a judgment that validates a common-law marriage. In the judgment, the court will ascertain the date of the marriage’s inception. The court’s judgment is sufficient to establish the validity of a common-law marriage.
A person claiming a valid common-law marriage under Navajo law may present a marriage license issued by the Navajo Office of Vital Records with the date of inception clearly documented; however, as of April 23, 1993, this documentation is not required. If presented, the license signifies a valid common-law marriage under Navajo law and no further development is necessary. Record identifying information about the license on the Evidence Screen.
If, despite a Navajo Nation Court judgment or a Navajo Office of Vital Records marriage license, other evidence raises a question as to the existence of a common-law marriage, follow the procedures in GN 01010.800 ff. for possible submittal to the RCC for a legal opinion.