What does God say about Common Law Marriage?

13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not[a]adjusted and [b]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear].

But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [c]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. – 1 Cor 10:13 (AMP)

In an article that I wrote about the process of dating to marriage from a single-christian perspective, I identified what I believe are seven things that are necessary to do in order to prepare yourself, and ultimately marry the person that God put on this earth for you. Is there someone for everyone? I think yes. I believe this with all of my heart.

I also realize that many people do not believe that it is possible, and for this reason there are more than enough opportunities for someone who does believe, to actually cross paths with the right person for them to spend their lives with.

The most controversial part of the Rules of Engagement article was the last myth where I said that it is a myth that someone who is engaged cannot have sex with the mate before their wedding. If you pay very close attention to my words, I said wedding, not marriage. In the article, I illustrated that according to the bible engagement or betrothal is the same as marriage.

We know this to be true because in the bible if you were betrothed, or engaged (same word) you have entered into a covenant, and a contract. In order to release yourself from engagement or betrothal, you must have a writ of divorce. My point in the article was not to tell people to go find someone to be engaged to in order to have pre-marital sex.

My point was to explain that if you are engaged not by today’s standards, but by the standards of the word of God, then you have entered a commitment, and a covenant to marry. I continued that entering into engagement should not be taken lightly. I always recommend that before engagement, you should have counseling sessions.

Some believe Marriage to be an institution while others believe it to be a ministry.

Some believe Marriage to be an institution while others believe it to be a ministry.

I recommend that men should not surprise their potential bride without you all first having conversations about marrying one another. The romantic way that you propose should be a surprise but the question and answer that you receive should not.

Common Law Marriage

There is a huge myth to dispel concerning marriages. Marriage is a ministry, it is a covenant and a life long commitment that should not be entered into because of feelings of love. You need to examine the heart and character of the person that you want to marry, and most importantly you will want to ask God if this is the person that he has perfectly designed for you. If you are like me, every single time someone says “common law marriage” you think “they must have been together a long time.” According to Mary S. Yamin-Garone 

the idea of common law marriage actually dates back to medieval England. It simply came about due to transportation difficulties and limitations. Clerics and justices who officiated at marriages were not always able to travel to couples in rural locations. In such cases, the couple could establish a marriage by “common law.”

In the past, common law marriage was a geographical issue, and not a conscious choice of two parties. There are many things that I believe we have misinterpreted by using the  phrase common law marriage so easily to identify a couple who has been together for a long time. Common Law Marriage is not biblically authorized for Christians.

There are two important factors to determine that common law marriages are not permitted. One is that someone who in this day and age are calling themselves common law married, do not have the intent to marry. We have always seen this couple as the alternative to wedding.

Someone who says that they are common law married identify themselves as a couple who would prefer not to actually be married rather continue in a cohabited relationship with or without children. God desires us to make choices in life. In fact he has given us free will in order for us to choose our relationship with him.

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People who choose to live their life as a boyfriend/girlfriend but never make a firm commitment, or enter a covenant miss out on the glory that is attached to a heavenly relationship under the divine ordinance of marriage. Either this person is, or is not the one but staying involved with someone without both feet in, or both feet out is indecisive and unfair to yourself and the other person.

You are either missing out on your blessings somewhere else, or you are missing out on your blessings where you are and may not be experiencing your best life. So, what is common law marriage? Common Law Marriage is marriage!

Although it is the alternative and dare I say sinful way to get married from a spiritual perspective, it is indeed marriage. There is a contract that must be signed by you and your spouse in order to submit paperwork to the courts. Some people think that common law marriage is a representation of the time that  you have been together however the truth is, common law marriage is not just a term but a legal process.

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You will enjoy some benefits associated with filling out the paperwork. It is most similar to a civil ceremony, without vows (just paperwork), or a domestic partnership. As a couple pursuing common law marriage you must:

  • have been living together for a state determined number of years
  • refer to each other as spouses (husband or wife) within your social circles
  • prove that you are already doing things that married people do like filing a joint tax return

There are only 14 states and the District of Columbia which still find Common Law Marriage recognizable. So, before you believe the next person who says that they are “common law” married, know that it is being phased out because it was never meant to be a way to marry in the first place.

Although you will fill out paperwork, and must be legally common law married, there are still disadvantages. According to several states and attorney websites, you do not get the full benefits that a married couple does in the event of an emergency or break up.

If you are married and you divorce – which we want to never happen, you have to discuss your possessions and agree on who will have what. You also must determine how you will settle the home and other things regardless of whether one of you or both of you are on the mortgage.

DALLAS, Feb. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Dallas-based Spencer Law, P.C., has won an important verdict for the estate of a deceased man from Garland, Texas, after jurors denied a woman’s assertion that she was the man’s common law wife, effectively rejecting her claim to half of his assets, which were valued at $500,000.

Dallas estate litigation attorney Kevin Spencer, founder of Spencer Law , won the verdict on behalf of the estate of Eddie Paul Baxter after a woman sued the executor of the estate in the probate case with claims that she was due half ownership of Mr. Baxter’s assets based on the purported common law marriage.

In a common law marriage if you break up, you walk away empty. You may not have any legal rights if the person dies and the family never like you. They can choose to do what they want with your loved one, and leave you out of it. It may be a fight, and one that you may not win. So here is my question to you. Why are you in a relationship so long that you have no idea if you:

  • Can trust them with your assets, like you trust them with your body?
  • Can trust them with your heart, like you trust them with your personal space?
  • Can trust them to lead or support you?
  • Can live without them?

Many people say that they do not need to be married. They are broken and disappointed by past relationship failures. The reality is – and I apologize for breaking this to you in an article no less- is that you may not be ready for the relationship of a lifetime. Love requires nakedness. Love is a feeling but first a decision to give way to the experience that you desire to have in this life.

Wedding in Washington DC on the National Mall

Wedding in Washington DC on the National Mall

Civil Marriage

In the bible, in order for one to be betrothed, there is a contract or signed agreement. If you translate it from that day to this one it is like, choosing each other and making the commitment to be together in marriage. Now, honestly a signed piece of paper as we know, holds up in civil court. “I promise to pay you back $300” will be heard and acknowledged by a judge in a court case.

My husband and I made the commitment to marry before we married. We were thorough in our conversations and chose to spend the rest of our lives together. It was first a verbal contract. One day he came home and said that he was offered something that would benefit our family, but they wanted us to be married. I offered him an out, and he would not take it saying, “That’s not an option, I do not want to live without you.”

I now truly believe that all of our steps have been ordered by God. In many ways, we could have gotten in our own way had we focused on our past relationships and measured them by what God had given in us. I had always been the woman who was like, “justice of the peace?” Absolutely not. For me personally, going to the justice of the peace, or having a small ceremony was like going to McDonald’s.

But, as I found when researching the word for the Rules of Engagement article, God doesn’t see it this way, so why do we? I had this perception because of how many failed marriages come from civil marriages too, I wanted the experience of having a wedding dress and celebrating with friends. While the dress may be tradition, God turned water into wine at a wedding celebration.

He does recognize and authorize a wedding and reception. My husband and I have kept our larger wedding plans however we had a small private ceremony. We had a man who could ironically pass for Santa Claus read a significant set of verses in the bible. We recited them looking into each other’s eyes almost uncomfortable but happy that there were a few others there to celebrate our joy.

I should add that my husband and I have attended 8 weeks of marriage counseling and I believe that it has been marriage-saving wisdom derived from those sessions which teach us how to handle situations that arise. We enjoy the full benefits of being married. We are best friends. The moral to this story is that if you know that the person you are dating is the one, why purposely sin?

The Personifications of God. Love this! Is it appropriate for you to put in your business?

The Personifications of God.

Even if you don’t know Jesus. If you know that they are the one, why not get married in case you realize later that Jesus is pretty cool and you’d like to grow a closer relationship? I’m using “Jesus” as an example for Christians who are looking for answers however we have seen in constant studies that marriage is like the fountain of youth when you are married to the right person. It promotes healthy living, it brings life and joy. You can’t make this happen but you can invite it.

If you are in a relationship and you are:

  • trying to figure out whether you should get “common law” married
  • trying to decide whether you should get a civil ceremony
  • trying to decide if you should stop co-habitation with your boyfriend/girlfriend
  • trying to figure out how to have a closer relationship with God and keep him/her

You are at a turning point in your relationship regardless of the choice that you make from this point on. I am a relationship mentor. I support individuals and families in making spiritual decisions about their relationships. You can call me if:

  • You have questions about your feelings
  • You have questions about how to end your relationship
  • You have questions about how to communicate your needs
  • You have questions about healing from your past

I believe that common law marriage is for individuals who are not sure if they are with the person that they believe is the one. The initial criteria is the length of your relationship. The next criteria is that you have the “intent to marry”. And, for many people, this is just not true.

There are many people willing to be in relationships for fear of change; complacency. Many people ride on the length of time that they have been together. I am blessed now, but there are some things that even I learned along my journey which may now benefit you. If you really answers, and want to attract the one for you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Ressurrection Graves is a pastoral counselor and relationship mentor. She supports both the abused and the homeless in their healing and personal growth processes. She offers 15 minute free consultation counseling sessions, and offers individual and couple’s counseling using biblical principles. For your 15 minute session please click here.

About Ressurrection

Ressurrection Graves is a Child Sexual Abuse Grooming Expert and H.E.A.L.E.R. (Healer, Educator, Activist, Life Skills Expert, Empowerment Speaker, Relationship Mentor) Her website reaches readership in 188 countries. She is available for national speaking engagements, radio and television interviews. She can be reached at: 202.717.7377 or send your request to: ressurrection dot wordpress at yahoo dot com or comment on http://www.ressurrection.wordpress.com
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11 Responses to What does God say about Common Law Marriage?

  1. Pingback: The Rules of Engagement: The Biblical Truth About Dating, and Marriage | Love, Life, and Relationships: Overcoming Emotional and Child Sexual Abuse

  2. Alva says:

    Quality articles is the key to invite the users to go to see the web site, that’s what this web site is providing.

  3. lady-m says:

    well said, bt i need advice me and my boyfriend are born again christian, but we are living in sin (fornication) he says he will marry me and stuff,i know he loves me and i love him and i want to spent the rest of my life with him, but iwant to stop this livingin sin stuff and live right by God,how do i go about that?

    • Follow your heart. Stop living in sin. The key is not whether he loves you, but whether he is the one. And, you have a say in that. If you marry him, you will be his helpmeet and he’ll be the head of the household. Do you trust him with your life? Is he the one? I think it’s important that you determine this first, before moving forward. It doesn’t take years to know this. In the moment, many of the boyfriends I had, I wanted to always be with, but they weren’t the one. Ask yourself the hard questions, and it will help you. Sometimes sex clouds our decisions so, since you’ve already identified that you want to stop, feel free to stop. If he is the one, he won’t go anywhere, right? It’s challenging when souls become connected so you must break the soul (your mind, will and emotions) tie to see if this is your spiritual mate. I hope this helps. Anymore questions, feel free to ask.

    • Follow your heart. Stop living in sin. The key is not whether he loves you, but whether he is the one. And, you have a say in that. If you marry him, you will be his helpmeet and he’ll be the head of the household. Do you trust him with your life? Is he the one? I think it’s important that you determine this first, before moving forward. It doesn’t take years to know this. In the moment, many of the boyfriends I had, I wanted to always be with, but they weren’t the one. Ask yourself the hard questions, and it will help you. Sometimes sex clouds our decisions so, since you’ve already identified that you want to stop, feel free to stop. If he is the one, he won’t go anywhere, right? It’s challenging when souls become connected so you must break the soul (your mind, will and emotions) tie to see if this is your spiritual mate. I hope this helps. Anymore questions, feel free to ask.

      • lady-m says:

        okay that helps…..but how can i tell if he is the one? i am jst confused at the moment

        • I recommend that you read my other blog article about The Rules of Engagement. This should help you to identify some things in your relationship. I offer pre-engagement counseling and all of the questions that I may have to ask, cannot be asked here, in this format. You are welcome to make an appointment with me via telephone. The article is in a link above, in the Common law Marriage article.

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