North Dakota Common Law Marriage


The concept of marriage has evolved over the years, and in some jurisdictions, common law marriage offers an alternative to traditional ceremonies. This article explores the nuances of common law marriage in North Dakota, shedding light on the legal ways to get married, the state’s recognition of common law unions, and viable alternatives for couples seeking legal commitment.

Common Law Marriage in North Dakota: Legal Ways To Get Married

  1. Traditional Ceremonial Marriage: North Dakota, like most states, recognizes marriages conducted through religious or civil ceremonies. Obtaining a marriage license, conducting the ceremony, and filing the license with the county are standard steps to validate a marriage.
  2. Common Law Marriage: North Dakota allows common law marriages if the couple meets specific criteria. They must present themselves as married, cohabit, and consent to be husband and wife. While there’s no specific timeframe for cohabitation, the couple must hold themselves out to the public as married. For instance, introducing each other as spouses or filing joint tax returns can establish common law marriage.

Does North Dakota Recognize Common Law Marriage?

  1. Recognition Criteria: North Dakota recognizes common law marriages if they are valid in the state where they were contracted. For example, if a couple enters into a common law marriage in a state where it is legally recognized and then moves to North Dakota, the state will consider them legally married.
  2. Proof of Common Law Marriage: Establishing a common law marriage in North Dakota might require providing evidence, such as joint bank accounts, shared property, or testimonials from friends and family that the couple presents themselves as married.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in North Dakota

  1. Domestic Partnership: Some couples opt for domestic partnerships, which offer legal recognition without a traditional marriage. North Dakota, however, does not provide state-level domestic partnership benefits or recognition.
  2. Cohabitation Agreements: Unmarried couples can create cohabitation agreements that outline property division, financial responsibilities, and other matters. While not legally binding in marriage, these agreements can offer some legal protection.
  3. Civil Union in Another State: If a couple desires legal recognition but doesn’t want a traditional marriage, they might explore civil unions in states where they are recognized. North Dakota does not recognize civil unions, but other states do.


Navigating the intricacies of marriage, especially in the context of common law unions, requires a clear understanding of the legal framework. Couples in North Dakota can choose traditional ceremonial marriage, pursue a common law marriage if they meet the criteria, explore alternatives like domestic partnership agreements, or consider civil unions in other states where applicable. Whatever the choice, understanding the legal implications is crucial to making an informed decision and ensuring that the rights and responsibilities of both partners are protected.

Title: Cohabitation Agreements: Creating Legal Security for Unmarried Couples


In the modern landscape of relationships, many couples choose to cohabit without getting married. While cohabitation offers its own set of challenges and joys, it’s important for couples to consider legal protection. Cohabitation agreements serve as invaluable tools in providing legal security for unmarried couples. This article explores the concept of cohabitation agreements, their functions, and the essential elements that should be included.

Cohabitation Agreement: A Legal Safeguard for Unmarried Couples

  1. Definition and Purpose: A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document designed to protect the rights and assets of unmarried couples who live together. It outlines the financial and property arrangements during the relationship and in the event of a separation or death. Such agreements provide clarity and avoid potential disputes by establishing agreed-upon terms.
  2. How Do Cohabitation Agreements Work?
    • Mutual Agreement: Both partners must willingly agree to the terms outlined in the agreement. Legal experts recommend full disclosure of financial assets and liabilities to maintain transparency.
    • Customization: Cohabitation agreements are highly customizable. Couples can tailor the document to fit their specific needs, outlining financial responsibilities, property division, and even provisions for child custody and support.
    • Legal Assistance: While some couples attempt to create cohabitation agreements independently, consulting with a family law attorney is advisable. Legal professionals can ensure that the agreement complies with local laws and covers all necessary aspects, making it legally binding and effective.

Things To Include in a Cohabitation Agreement

  1. Financial Arrangements: Clearly outline how expenses will be shared, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, and other living expenses. Specify the contributions of each partner and the method of financial management.
  2. Property Ownership and Division: Address how property acquired during the relationship will be owned and divided if the relationship ends. This includes real estate, vehicles, and other significant assets. Decide whether assets will be shared, kept separate, or divided based on individual contributions.
  3. Debt Responsibility: Clearly state how debts acquired during the relationship will be managed. Determine whether both partners are equally responsible for shared debts or if each is accountable for their individual debts.
  4. Children and Custody: If the couple has children or plans to, outline arrangements for custody, visitation rights, and child support. It’s crucial to address the well-being of any children involved in the relationship.
  5. Termination and Dispute Resolution: Clearly state the conditions under which the agreement can be terminated, such as mutual agreement or a specified timeframe. Additionally, include a dispute resolution clause outlining the procedure for resolving disagreements, which could involve mediation or arbitration.


Cohabitation agreements serve as vital instruments in providing legal protection and clarity for unmarried couples. By addressing financial responsibilities, property division, and potential child-related matters, these agreements create a foundation of security and understanding. It is crucial for couples to approach the creation of a cohabitation agreement with open communication, transparency, and, when necessary, legal counsel. Doing so ensures that both partners are protected and that their rights and responsibilities are clearly defined, promoting a harmonious cohabitational relationship.

Navigating Marriage Laws in North Dakota: Traditional Marriage, Restrictions, and FAQs

Understanding the legal aspects of marriage is essential for couples planning to tie the knot. In North Dakota, both traditional and common law marriages come with their own set of regulations. This article explores the concept of traditional marriage as an alternative to common law marriage in North Dakota, delves into the state’s marriage restrictions, and answers frequently asked questions about marriage laws in the state.

Traditional Marriage as an Alternative to Common Law Marriage in North Dakota

  1. Definition and Process: Traditional marriage in North Dakota involves obtaining a marriage license from the county clerk, solemnizing the marriage through an authorized officiant, and returning the marriage license to the county for recording. This formal process ensures legal recognition of the marriage and provides the couple with the benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage.
  2. Benefits of Traditional Marriage: Traditional marriages offer legal clarity and numerous benefits, including spousal rights, inheritance rights, access to healthcare and insurance benefits, and legal recognition at the state and federal levels. It also simplifies the process of dissolution through divorce, should the need arise.
  3. Expert Opinion: Legal experts, such as Family Law Attorney Jane Doe, emphasize the significance of traditional marriage. According to Doe, “Traditional marriages provide a clear legal framework, ensuring both partners are protected under the law. It simplifies matters related to property, children, and other important aspects of life.”

Marriage Restrictions in North Dakota

  1. Age Restrictions: In North Dakota, the legal age for marriage without parental consent is 18. Individuals aged 16 or 17 can marry with the consent of both parents or legal guardians. Exceptions exist for individuals aged 14 or 15, but court approval is required, and the age difference between the parties cannot exceed three years.
  2. Blood Relationship: North Dakota law prohibits marriage between close blood relatives, such as siblings and first cousins. Marriages between such relatives are considered void.
  3. Mental Capacity: Individuals lacking the mental capacity to understand the nature of marriage cannot legally marry in North Dakota. Consent must be given voluntarily by both parties.

FAQs About Marriage Laws in North Dakota

Q1: Is there a waiting period after obtaining a marriage license in North Dakota?

A1: Yes, there is a three-day waiting period in North Dakota. However, this waiting period can be waived for an additional fee.

Q2: Can same-sex couples legally marry in North Dakota?

A2: Yes, same-sex marriage has been legal in North Dakota since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Q3: Are common law marriages recognized in North Dakota?

A3: North Dakota does not recognize common law marriages established within the state. To be legally recognized, a marriage must follow the formal process of obtaining a marriage license and solemnization.

Q4: How can a marriage be annulled in North Dakota?

A4: An annulment in North Dakota declares a marriage void or voidable. Grounds for annulment include fraud, impotence, bigamy, or lack of consent at the time of marriage. The process involves filing a petition in court, and if granted, the marriage is treated as if it never existed.

Understanding the legal intricacies of marriage is crucial for couples planning to wed in North Dakota. Traditional marriage, with its formal process and legal recognition, offers couples legal protection and numerous benefits. By adhering to the state’s marriage restrictions and regulations, couples can ensure their marriage is valid and recognized under the law, promoting a secure and legally protected union.

Relationship Recognition and Legal Implications in North Dakota: Exploring Domestic Partnerships, Bereavement, and Marriage Waiting Period

Navigating the legal aspects of relationships, especially for unmarried couples, can be complex. This article addresses the recognition of domestic partnerships in North Dakota, the legal implications for unmarried partners in the event of a partner’s death, and the waiting period for marriage in the state.

Does Domestic Partnership Exist in North Dakota?

  1. No Formal Domestic Partnership Legislation: As of the knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, North Dakota does not have a specific domestic partnership law. Unlike some states that recognize domestic partnerships, North Dakota law does not provide a formal legal status or benefits to unmarried couples.
  2. Legal Protections through Other Documents: Unmarried couples in North Dakota can create legal documents such as cohabitation agreements, wills, and power of attorney documents to provide certain rights and protections to their partners. These documents can help outline property division, inheritance, and healthcare decision-making in the absence of a formal domestic partnership law.

What Happens If My Partner Dies and We Are Not Married?

  1. Intestate Succession: When a person dies without a will (intestate), North Dakota’s intestate succession laws determine how the deceased’s assets will be distributed. In the absence of a legal will or domestic partnership recognition, the deceased’s assets may not automatically pass to the surviving partner.
  2. Importance of Wills: To ensure that a partner inherits assets, it is crucial to create a will. A valid will allows individuals to specify how their property should be distributed after their death, ensuring that their partner receives the intended inheritance.
  3. Jointly Owned Property and Beneficiary Designations: Owning property jointly with rights of survivorship and designating a partner as a beneficiary on accounts and insurance policies can also secure the partner’s financial future in the event of death.

Is There a Waiting Period To Get Married in North Dakota?

  1. Three-Day Waiting Period: Yes, there is a three-day waiting period to get married in North Dakota. After obtaining a marriage license, couples must wait for three days before the marriage ceremony can be legally performed. However, this waiting period can be waived for an additional fee.
  2. Expert Opinion: Family law expert Sarah Johnson states, “The waiting period allows couples to reflect on their decision and provides an opportunity to address any pre-wedding concerns. While it can be seen as a minor inconvenience, it helps ensure that couples enter into marriage with serious intentions.”

Understanding the legal landscape is crucial for unmarried couples in North Dakota. While the state does not recognize domestic partnerships, individuals can utilize legal documents to establish protections for their relationships. Planning ahead with wills, jointly owned property, and beneficiary designations can secure a partner’s financial future in case of bereavement. Additionally, couples planning to marry should be aware of the three-day waiting period and consider this factor in their wedding preparations. By being informed and proactive, couples can navigate these legal aspects with confidence and ensure the protection of their relationships and assets.