Does West Virginia Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Hello everyone. It’s Chris, Pritt back again with a new topic in West Virginia divorce today, we’re going to be talking about common-law marriages and in particular, whether they exist in West Virginia.

I can tell you that the short answer to that is no. In West Virginia, we do not have common-law marriages. Let’s first talk though about what a common-law marriage is. A common law marriage is recognized in some jurisdictions, and it basically says that if you’re living together and you’re together for all practical purposes, as husband and wife, certain rights and responsibilities can come from that. So that’s generally what it might be considered in some other states and jurisdictions. We in West Virginia though do not recognize that. However, that does not necessarily mean that what could be almost considered a common-law marriage for all practical purposes, would not have an impact when it comes to several issues that you sometimes see in family court.

One situation that we’ve talked about in a prior video is de facto marriages. This comes into play basically if two people are living together. It can have an impact on spousal support and whether somebody can have it modified based on the existence of a de facto marriage. The other thing that can have an impact in situations where it might be something similar to a common-law marriage is other areas is child custody. Let’s say you have two people who are living together. They’re together for all practical purposes. That can certainly have an impact when it comes to parenting. A court is probably going to look at that situation a lot differently than a situation where let’s say that you have a father or a mother who has been exclusively taking care of a child over an extended period.So let’s say the father or mother hasn’t been in the picture for years for whatever reason. That is going to be looked at a lot differently than let’s say two people who have been cohabitating together with the child for an extended amount of time. From that also comes child support because one thing that is going to happen when two people break up and they have a child together is somebody is probably going to be on the hook for child support. If the two people have been living together then it’s more likely that the two people are going to end up in a child custody fight. If that’s the case, it’s going to be looked at a lot differently in that situation.

Something that a court might also consider, though it doesn’t apply to family court, is if you have two people who have been living together for all practical purposes, but let’s say that they are going their separate ways and they need to divide their property. Now the family court in that situation is not going to have jurisdiction over their property. However, at the same time, if somebody files a claim in circuit court to divide the property the family court could factor in whether the people have been living together as for all practical purposes. They are going to be looking at that because it could impact the evidence as to how a particular piece of property is going to be titled.

So those are a few situations where the court could look at two people living together for all practical purposes, like husband and wife, but not husband and wife. This consists of today’s topic. If you have any questions at all, feel free to give us a call at (304) 720 4412 or email us at

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