TN 34 (02-12)

GN 00307.255 Common Law Marriages Outside the United States

A. Policy on common law marriages outside the United States

Do not make assumptions about the recognition of common law marriage for any country not listed in this section.

B. List of countries with precedent opinions on the recognition of common law marriages outside the United States

The table lists by country the current precedent opinions available on the recognition of common law marriages outside the United States. Information not listed reflects non-existing opinions. A legal opinion may be necessary for periods or for countries not listed.





Not recognized through January 2012


Not recognized from September 1963 to January 1976


Not recognized through May 1953


Not recognized from January 1902 through January 1949


Not recognized through November 1985


Not recognized from June 3, 1944 through January 1949


  • British Columbia

Not recognized from January 1930 through October 1990, except in very remote areas where it is impossible to have an authorized official perform a marriage ceremony.
Provincial statute does, under certain circumstances:

  • Provide an individual the right that enables a person deemed to the NH's spouse for title II purposes.

  • Permit a child of such a union deemed child for title II purposes. (This does not extend to deeming children of a prior marriage to be the NH's stepchildren.)

Request a legal opinion for cases where there is a question about the possibility of deemed status as a wife or child and there is no precedent to fit the individual case situation.

  • Manitoba

Not recognized from January 1940 through March 1954

  • New Brunswick

Not recognized from January 1952 through March 1976

  • Northwest Territories

Not recognized from January 1956 through January 1971

  • Ontario

Not recognized through May 1987

The 1986 Ontario Family Law Act, while conferring some rights on cohabitants, neither recognizes the relationship as a valid marriage nor grants the same status as a spouse for the taking of intestate personal property.

  • Prince Edward Island

Not recognized through June 1961

  • Quebec

Not recognized through June 2015

  • Yukon

Not recognized from January 1970 through January 1983


Not recognized through January 1966

Costa Rica

Not recognized from January 1973 to January 1978


Recognized from October 19, 1940 through June 1986

Cohabitation is not sufficient to produce legal effects. A final court judgment must validate the relationship granting the same status as a civil marriage.


Not recognized from June 30, 1922 through July 1953

Dominican Republic

Not recognized through March 1963

El Salvador

Not recognized from January 1928 through January 1958

England (see United Kingdom)  


Not recognized from January 1967 through July 1970


Not recognized through May 1987

Germany, West

Not recognized through February 1963


Not recognized through April 1969


Not recognized from January 1947 through March 1962


Not recognized from January 1946 through March 1964


Not recognized from June 16, 1965 through October 1982

Although the Honduran constitution provides for the acknowledgement of de facto unions, there are no laws that effectuate this acknowledgment.


Not recognized from January 1947 through August 1982



Not generally recognized through February 1980

However, in some death cases, such a union can give the survivor inheritance rights which provides widows benefits for Social Security purposes. To secure such rights:

  • Couple must have lived together as husband and wife;

  • Each must have been unmarried at the time of death; and

  • There must be no contrary direction, express or implied, for the distribution of the deceased's property.

Ireland, Republic of

Not recognized through November 1960


Not recognized through October 1951


Not recognized through August 1971

Korea, South

Not recognized from January 15, 1962 through March 1970


Not recognized through February 1986


  • State of Tamaulipas recognized common law marriages from November 1, 1940 through October 23, 1961. The union (cohabitation and continued sexual relations of one man and one woman), is considered a marriage for all legal purposes. It is not considered a marriage if the parties separated and established a similar relationship with another party.

  • Some of the Mexican states and the Mexican Federal District recognize a state of “*Concubinage” in certain death cases where the couple lived together for 5 years prior to the date of death (without prior unresolved marriages).

    *Concubinage is the state of a woman or man in an ongoing, usually matrimonially oriented, relationship with somebody to whom they cannot be married often because of a difference in social status or economic condition.


Not recognized through February 1997


Not recognized through August 1959


Not recognized through August 1974

Scotland (see United Kingdom)  


Not recognized through March 1952


Recognized prior to October 1, 1935

Not recognized from October 1, 1935 through May 1985 unless validly registered with the civil authorities. Valid common law relationships that were effective prior to October 1, 1935 are subsequently recognized.

Trinidad and Tobago

Not recognized from January 1902 through July 1948

United Kingdom  

  • England

Not recognized through August 1957

  • Scotland

Not recognized from January 1, 1940 through February 1957


Not recognized from January 1964 through April 30, 1975


Not recognized from January 1954 through December 1957

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GN 00307.255 - Common Law Marriages Outside the United States - 06/19/2015
Batch run: 06/24/2015