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common-law marriage

n. an agreement between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife without any legal formalities, followed and/or preceded by cohabitation on a regular basis (usually for seven years). Common-law marriage is legal in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, thereby recognizing a marriage for purposes of giving the other party the rights of a spouse, including inheritance or employee benefits. Such informal partnerships are recognized by some local governments for purposes of the rights of a spouse under employment contracts and pension rights even where the state does not recognize this as a marriage.

See also: cohabitation 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications