Legal Memorandum: Common Law Marriages in MN

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

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Common-law marriage; Legally recognized; Cohabitation
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 256 N.W.2d 249
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 517.01
Date: 02/01/2001

Minnesota abolished common law marriage on April 26, 1941.  Only common law marriages entered into on or before that date are valid.  Common law marriages are not merely prohibited, they are void.  Minn. Stat. Ann. § 517.01; see Carlson v. Olson, 256 N.W.2d 249 (Minn. 1977).

With regard to recognition of common law marriages from states where they are valid, the general rule is that the cohabitation and holding out of the couple as husband and wife must be of sufficient duration within the common law state as to create a public reputation of husband and wife.  The elements of a common law marriage in Minnesota before 1941, or as applied in recognizing those of other states, are capacity to enter into a marriage, mutual consent, cohabitation and reputation in the community.  Laikola v. Engineered Concrete, 277 N.W.2d 653 (Minn. 1979).


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