Legal Memorandum: Common Law Marriages in DC

Issue: What is the status of common law marriage in District of Columbia?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Common-law marriage; Legally recognized; Cohabitation
Jurisdiction: District of Columbia
Cited Cases: 170 A.2d 778; 87 A.2d 403; 199 Md. 449; 201 A.2d 873
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

A common law marriage is valid in the District of Columbia if the parties are legally capable of entering into the relationship, they mutually agree to do so, and cohabitation follows an express agreement to be husband and wife.  Toye v. Toye, 170 A.2d 778 (D.C. 1961).  If there is an impediment to marriage and they continue to cohabit after removal of the impediment, a valid common-law marriage exists.  Lee v. Lee, 201 A.2d 873 (D.C. 1964); Taylor v. Taylor, 233 A.2d 43 (D.C. 1967).  In Henderson v. Henderson, 199 Md. 449, 87 A.2d 403 (1952), a Maryland court held that cohabitation of parties in D.C. for about a year gave rise to a common law marriage under D.C. law.


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