Common Law Marriage
The beginning of a common law marriage is what mainly differentiates it from traditional marriage. You can enter into a common law marriage without an official ceremony or marriage license, but you and your spouse nonetheless live as husband and wife. You may introduce yourselves to others as spouses, file joint tax returns and own property together. The only real difference is that the marriage is not on record with the state.
Ending Your Marriage
Regardless of the fact that common law marriages begin without any official documentation, they only end by divorce or the death of one spouse, just as traditional marriages do. You must file a petition to begin the process, just as you would if you had taken out a marriage license. The same grounds – both fault and no-fault – are available to you. You must serve your spouse with a copy of your petition and an automatic restraining order goes into effect when you do, prohibiting both of you from selling, transferring or encumbering marital property. The major difference between common law and traditional divorce proceedings is that if your spouse contests the divorce by saying you were never common law married, you must prove to the court that you were married.