In Ohio, common law marriage was abolished as of October 10, 1991. If they had established a common law marriage prior to that time, that marriage is still considered valid and Judy could collect social security based on his account. In order to establish common law marriage, the couple must hold themselves out as husband and wife (e.g. introducing themselves as Mr. and Mrs., having mail sent to her as Mrs., etc., ) they have sexually consummated the marriage, they had agreed among themselves that they were married, they lived together, and they have a reputation in the community as husband and wife. If all of these factors were met before that date, they are married just as if they had a ceremonial marriage. This is NOT something to try to handle yourself though. You will definitely need an attorney.
I hope that this information is helpful to you. If so, please mark it as "helpful" or "best answer." The information provided here is general in nature and is not to be considered legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is intended nor created. As an Ohio attorney not licensed in any other jurisdiction, any information provided here is solely based on Ohio law and general legal principles. The information provided here should not be put into practice without specifically consulting an attorney in your jurisdiction. Do not proceed without first discussing this matter with your own local attorney.
My condolences for your loss.
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Social Security survivor benefits require proof of the relationship with the decedent and where it is for a widow, the marriage must be proved. Social Security follows applicable state law on that issue so common law marriage under Ohio law would be the required proof. Without confirmation of the marriage by the decedent, the survivor will need to rely on written evidence of the marriage such as jointly filed income tax returns, health insurance applications for the widow as spouse, credit applications, etc. Retaining experienced Social Security counsel may be needed.
Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.
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You need to contact an Ohio Social Security lawyer who can attempt to prove to Social Security that there was a common law marriage before 1991 which was 22 years ago. Since they lived together as man and wife for 27 years perhaps she can do this.
This response is meant to be information only and should not be considered to be legal advice. This information is not meant and should not be construed to be the formation of an attorney client relationship. I practice Virginia Workers compensation law and Social Security Disability law.