Tags: Marriage

Iowa is one of the few states within the U.S. that permits common law marriage.  Iowa residents will usually declare common law marriages in Iowa if they do not want a traditional wedding ceremony but still want the tax benefits of a legal marriage. However, establishing that a common law marriage legally exists is not an automatic right and may be easier said than done.

The state will only recognize a common law marriage in Iowa if the two parties can show the following three elements: 

  1. There was intent and agreement in present to be married by both parties
  2. There has been continuous cohabitation between the parties before the common law marriage in IA
  3. There is a public declaration or holding that the parties are husband and wife

There are few laws that address common law marriage in states that don’t recognize this type of marital union, but there are usually two factors that will motivate another state to recognize a common law marriage in Iowa, or other state, that allows the marriage: the parties have signed power of attorney papers while in the relationship, and the marriage was contracted in a state that recognized such a union—like common law marriages in Iowa.

In order to validate the legal common law marriage in Iowa within another state, the other state’s court will consider several factors in certain cases like a divorce or separation proceeding.  The court will usually consider the following aspects for recognizing common law marriages in Iowa and within their state: 

  • The two parties actually cohabitated in an out of state jurisdiction, such as Iowa
  • The out of state jurisdiction had established common law marriage requirements, such as laws for a common law marriage in Iowa 
  • The date of actually declaring the common law marriage in Iowa can be established by the court
  • Even in common law marriages in Iowa, the court may also determine if there were any power of attorney documents signed prior to the cohabitation

If two couples want an outside state to recognize their common law marriage in Iowa, the two couples are usually advised to sign power of attorney documents.  Two couples will normally establish a durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney with help of a qualified legal professional to help establish the common law marriage in Iowa.  

If couples reached former agreements before their common law marriages in Iowa (such as coming to an agreement about the division of property in a future separation in an out of state jurisdiction) another jurisdiction that normally doesn’t recognize such unions may recognize such agreements.  

Even after a court has heard testimony and evidence, they may still not recognize the common law marriage in Iowa within the out-of-state jurisdiction.  Before declaring a common law marriage in Iowa, know the risks and benefits before you go ahead with the union.


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