Common-law marriage, but no legal divorce. Now I'm 65 & want to draw from his Social Security. Any way to do that w/o papers?

Asked over 3 years ago - Oklahoma City, OK

We got legal advice at the time & were advised to move on and forget our marriage. Since we were broke & in college, we took her bad advice. I regret it now. "Just a piece of paper"- hah!!

We lived together from 1978-91. For years we filed income taxes as married, but I don't know when we began doing that. IRS says their records only go back to 1992 for me.

I never remarried, but he did. So does that make him a bigamist? He and I agreed verbally in '91 to just move on. He was an alcoholic whom I put through grad school (PhD) and then it was supposed to be my turn. But I couldn't tolerate the craziness anymore and left.

He traded up to a legal marriage in about '93 & they're still together, I think. My pressing this issue would be major trouble for him, but good for me. Advice?

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Robert C. Alston

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . Common law marriages are only recognized in a few states. I do not know if OK is one of them. Even in the states that do recognize them, there can be a number of technicalities to overcome. However, even with a "valid" common law marriage you still will have to prove, to Social Securities' satisfaction that it is a valid marriage. The only thing you can do is go to your local SSA office and inquire. .

  2. Susan Hogg

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . There is information on what kind of evidence of common-law marriage Social Security wants here:

    It may depend on where you and your common law spouse lived during the time of your "marriage" because Social Security accepts state law as controlling in the issue of whether someone is married or not. Generally (not always) you would've had to have met the requirements for common law marriage in that state while you were living there.

    Even if you can provide valid proof of a common law marriage, you probably would have to meet the requirements to receive retirement benefits as a divorced spouse. See this link for information.

    You may wish to find an attorney in your area who can assist you in investigating whether or not you were in a valid common law marriage and if so obtaining the evidence you need and resolving the other issues (valid divorce? etc.) your question raises.

    The response provides information only and does not create or establish an attorney-client relationship. It is also general advice or information based on the information provided by the question, therefore if additional or different information were provided, the information or response might be different or change. The attorney is licensed to practice only in Oregon.

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

28,425 answers this week

3,039 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

28,425 answers this week

3,039 attorneys answering