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					GARZA MACRO                                                                  2/15/2006 11:01 AM




                COMMON LAW MARRIAGE:
              A PROPOSAL FOR THE REVIVAL
                  OF A DYING DOCTRINE

                            SONYA C. GARZA*
      The twentieth century led to a destruction of common law marriage
throughout American states. Today, only eleven states and the District of
Columbia recognize common law marriage.1 In this paper, I will review the
past and present of common law marriage in advocating for a revival of the
recognition of common law marriage throughout America. In Part I of the
paper I will focus on the history of common law marriage and its
subsequent destruction. In Part II of the paper I will discuss the destruction
of common law marriage. In Part III of the paper I will review common law
marriage as it exists today. In Part IV of the paper I will discuss the current
legal alternatives to common law marriage. In Part V of the paper I will
advocate for a revival of common law marriage throughout the United
States.

                I. THE HISTORY OF COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
     Common law marriage originated “in Europe prior to the
Reformation.”2 “Marriage was regarded as a private affair, a thing between
families, rather than a matter in which the state . . . had an interest.”3
Common law marriage was not only recognized under English common



*    Assistant Professor of Law, New England School of Law. The University of Texas,
     B.A.; Stanford Law School, J.D. The author would like to thank her mother, Diana
     Garza, and colleague, Professor Russell Versteeg, for their comments on an earlier
     draft of this article. In addition, the author would like to thank the editors at the New
     England Law Review for their hard work.
1.   See Marsha Garrison, Is Consent Necessary? An Evaluation of the Emerging Law of
     Cohabitant Obligation, 52 U.C.L.A L. REV. 815, 849 (2005).
2.   Cynthia Grant Bowman, A Feminist Proposal to Bring Back Common Law Marriage,
     75 OR. L. REV. 709, 718 (1996).
3.   Id.

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542                     NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW                              [Vol. 40:541

law but as the law of the Catholic Church.4 In 1753, English Parliament
passed Lord Hardwicke’s Act, which required marriage ceremonies to be
performed by officials of the Church of England.5
      By the time of the passage of the Act in 1753, common law marriage
had been adopted in some colonies in America. Some of the original
colonies drafted legislation requiring marriage regulations while others
adopted common law marriage under English common law.6
      Many scholars make the singular argument that common law
marriage expanded to the western United States and was a consequence of
frontier conditions.7 In other words, due to sparse conditions in the west in
nineteenth-century America, the lack of religious officials to perform
marriage ceremonies and difficulty of traveling, the western states had no
choice but to recognize common law marriage. “Under these
circumstances, men and women married in many areas simply by agreeing
to be married, setting up a household together, and representing that they
were husband and wife.”8 In the smaller communities of the west, other
members were usually aware as to whether or not the cohabiting couple
held themselves out as husband and wife.9
      That said, the theory that most western states adopted common law
marriage due to the necessities of the frontier lifestyle is not all true. Many
western states were affected by their individual histories of prior rule under
the French, Spanish, and Mexican.10 Native American law also influenced
the adoption of common law marriage in some states.11
      Again, “there can be no single explanation for the adoption of
common law marriage in some states and its prohibition in others.”12 While


4.    See id. at 719.
5.    See id.
6.    Massachusetts regulated marriage by statute requiring marriage ceremonies officiated
      by a clergyman or magistrate. On the other hand, New York adopted English common
      law, therefore accepting the tenets of common law marriage. See id. at 719-20.
7.    See LAWRENCE M. FRIEDMAN, PRIVATE LIVES: FAMILIES, INDIVIDUALS, AND THE LAW
      19-20 (2004).
8.    Bowman, supra note 2, at 723.
9.    See id.
10.   See id. at 724-28. For example, Louisiana law reflected Napoleonic principles which
      required civil marriage. While Spanish and Mexican law prohibited common law
      marriage, the only state under the previous rule of these countries that prohibited
      common law marriage was New Mexico. Other states under such rule were affected
      by social norms. Informal marriage continued to be common among Hispanic
      residents of certain western states, so California, Arizona, and Texas all recognized
      common law marriage at the latter part of the nineteenth century.
11.   See id. at 730-31.
12.   Id. at 731.
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some colonies followed English common law, other regulated marriage by
legislation. While some western states were affected by the laws of prior
rulers, others were more affected by the social norms of their citizens.

              II. THE DESTRUCTION OF COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
      Prior to the latter part of the nineteenth century, common law
marriage was widely recognized throughout the United States. At this time
in the country’s history, common law marriage was a means of protecting
the property interests of women and solidifying the legitimacy of
children.13 Since there was almost never any actual evidence of the
marriage, the courts assumed that a marriage existed due to the existence of
a stable relationship, cohabitation, and children.14 Professor Lawrence
Friedman states the uniqueness of the United States and its reasons for
adopting common law or informal marriages:
         The United States was, in a sense, the first middle-class country.
         No factor explains more of the twists and turns in American law,
         and the nature of American society in the nineteenth century in
         general. The United States was the first country in which
         ordinary people owned some capital: a farm, a plot of land, a
         house. Questions of title, inheritance, and mortgage do not enter
         the lives of people who have nothing and own nothing—serfs,
         tenant farmers, and the like. Once people have property, once
         they own something, they become consumers of the products of
         the legal system. Now family law becomes significant for them.
         A man is dead; he owned an eighty-acre farm. Is this woman his
         widow? Are these children legitimate heirs?15
      The decline in the recognition of common law marriage began with
the increase in population that occurred between the Civil War and the end


13.   See Ariela R. Dubler, Wifely Behavior: A Legal History of Acting Married, 100
      COLUM. L. REV. 957, 968-69 (2000).
         The vast majority of cases in which courts across jurisdictions pondered
         the validity and desirability of common law marriage shared a common
         sociological backdrop: female economic dependency. Almost all
         common law marriage cases involved women in need of financial
         support, and most were initiated by female plaintiffs. In many cases, a
         woman whose long-term domestic partner had died or deserted her came
         to court seeking judicial recognition of her terminated relationship as
         marital to enable her to inherit as a widow or to seek support as an
         abandoned wife.
      Id.
14.   See Friedman, supra note 7, at 20.
15.   Id.
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of World War I. The population increase lead to urbanization and a change
in the economy of the United States.16 At the end of the nineteenth century
and the beginning of the twentieth century many states began to abolish
common law marriage.17 Due to the change in frontier culture, many state
governments began to reason that there was no longer a need for
recognition of informal marriage.
      In addition to the transition to urbanization and transformation of the
economy, the state governments had other reasons for abolishing common
law doctrines. First, the states feared fraudulent claims under common law
marriage laws.18 Second, the states began to emphasize the importance of
the institution of marriage. Marriage was seen as the “model and
foundation of society and government.”19 Third, the states feared interracial
marriage and were concerned about eugenics. In the latter part of the
nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century the majority of
states had anti-miscegenation laws but interracial marriages could still
technically be recognized under common law marriage doctrines.20 In
addition, states wanted to “mak[e] it difficult or impossible for immature,
mentally disordered, mentally defective, mismated, bewildered, or
alcoholic men and women to get married.”21 Common law marriage
doctrine did not prevent against such marriages.
      As the twentieth century proceeded, the list of state concerns
regarding common law marriage became longer. In addition to all the
concerns listed above, further changes in society led to increased abolition
of common law marriage in more states across America. First, states
became concerned that without certainty regarding family status, third
parties would suffer consequences of not knowing if a party is truly a
spouse, a widow, or a widower.22 For example, states became concerned


16.   See Bowman, supra note 2, at 732.
17.   Common law marriage was abolished in Alaska in 1917, Arizona in 1913, Arkansas
      in 1911, California in 1895, Illinois in 1905, and North Dakota in 1890. Id.
18.   See id. at 733-35. “The decline of common law marriage reflects the sad fact that
      litigation-based determination of marital commitment ‘leads to fraud and uncertainty
      in the most important of human relationships.’” Garrison, supra note 1, at 850
      (quoting HOMER H. CLARK, JR., THE LAW OF DOMESTIC RELATIONS IN THE UNITED
      STATES 59 (West 1987) (1968)).
19.   Bowman, supra note 2, at 736.
20.   See id. at 738.
21.   Id. at 739-40 (alteration in original) (quoting MORRIS PLOSCOWE, SEX AND THE LAW
      16 (1951)).
22.   Margaret M. Mahoney, Forces Shaping the Law of Cohabitation for Opposite Sex
      Couples, 7 J. L. & FAM. STUD. 135, 183-85 (2005) (addressing the current case of
      PNC Bank Corp. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd., 831 A.2d 1269 (Pa. Commw. Ct.
      2003), in which the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania called for the abolition of
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with the distribution of government benefits upon death.23 This concern
was tied to the fear of fraudulent claims. The concern was having
fraudulent spousal claims brought through common law marriage doctrines.
Second, the court became increasingly concerned with the administrative
and judicial efficiency of litigating common law marriage claims.24 Not
only would such cases be costly, but there were strong evidentiary
problems in that most cases lacked clear documentation of the informal
relationship. Because it was helpful “for business reasons” to be able to
prove or disprove marriage by the civil registry of licenses, the abolition of
common law marriage continued.25

              III. THE STATE OF COMMON LAW MARRIAGE TODAY
      Even with the destruction of common law marriage in most states,
parties continue to believe in its existence. In other words, the destruction
of the common law marriage doctrine has not stopped couples from
entering into relationships they believe are informal marriage. “Apparently,
the law in a particular state does not dictate whether people enter into
formal or informal marriages, so much as other social, economic, and
cultural factors do.”26 The consequences of such a belief are harsh. In
jurisdictions that do not recognize common law marriage, parties may end
a relationship they believed was an informal marriage and have no recourse
in ending that relationship.
      Today only eleven states and the District of Columbia recognize
common law marriage.27 States usually recognize common law marriage
when a ceremonial requirement of civil marriage has not been met or as an
alternative method of union.28
      As a way of illustrating the current common law marriage law in
those states which recognize the doctrine, I will review the Texas and Utah
common law marriage doctrines. Of the twelve jurisdictions that recognize


      common law marriage in Pennsylvania due to the interests of third parties in this
      context).
23.   See Bowman, supra note 2, at 746.
24.   See id. at 752.
25.   See id.
26.   See id. at 753.
27.   See Garrison, supra note 1, at 849. The jurisdictions that recognize common law
      marriage are as follows: Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa,
      Kansas, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
      Bowman, supra note 2, at 715 n.24.
28.   See Hon. John B. Crawley, Is the Honeymoon Over for Common-Law Marriage: A
      Consideration of the Continued Viability of the Common-Law Marriage Doctrine, 29
      CUMB. L. REV. 399, 403 (1999).
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common law marriage, Texas and Utah are the only two that have “strict
limitations on its establishments” or a statute of limitations for establishing
such an informal marriage.29

      A. Common Law Marriage in Texas
      The Texas Family Code provides as follows:
         In a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding, the marriage of
         man and woman may be proved by evidence that: (1) a
         declaration of their marriage has been signed as provided by this
         subchapter; or (2) the man and woman agreed to be married and
         after the agreement they lived together in this state as husband
         and wife and there represented to others that they were
         married.30
      There are two ways to establish the existence of an informal marriage.
The parties may either execute a written declaration of marriage or meet
the “test” for informal marriage.31 The requirements for filing of a written
declaration are more obvious. Less obvious and subject to scrutiny is the
standard or legal test for establishing an informal marriage. First and
foremost, the parties must have the capacity to marry as defined for both
formal and common law marriage.32 In addition, parties must provide
evidence showing: (1) an agreement to be presently married; (2)
cohabitation in Texas after the agreement; and (3) holding out to others that
the parties are married.33
      First of all, the parties must agree to be presently married. The parties
must intend to have a “present, immediate, and permanent marital
relationship,” not just to be married some time in the future.34 Second, the
parties must cohabit in Texas after the agreement. Cohabitation is more
than a “situation[] involving a frequent overnight guest or someone who
stores personal property at someone else’s home.”35 Last, and often the
most difficult to prove, the parties must hold themselves out to others as
married. “[P]roof of common law-marriage may be shown by the conduct
of the parties, or by such circumstances as their addressing each other as


29.   Garrison, supra note 1, at 849 & n.142.
30.   TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 2.401(a) (Vernon 2005).
31.   Sonya C. Garza, Common Law Marriage in Texas, THE TEXAS DOCKET, Apr. 2003, at
      12.
32.   See generally TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. §§ 2.001, 2.002, 2.101, 2.102, 2.401 (Vernon
      2005).
33.   TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 2.401(a)(2) (Vernon 2005).
34.   Flores v. Flores, 847 S.W.2d 648, 650 (Tex. Ct. App. 1993).
35.   Allen v. Allen, 966 S.W.2d 658, 661 (Tex. Ct. App. 1998).
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husband and wife, acknowledging their children as legitimate, joining in
conveyances as spouses, and occupying the same dwelling place.”36 Parties
can often provide documentation of such “holding out” through joint tax
returns, joint checking account statements, or insurance policies naming the
common law spouse as such.37
      The most important and stringent requirement of informal marriage in
Texas is as follows:
         If a proceeding in which a marriage is to be proved as provided
         by Subsection (a)(2) is not commenced before the second
         anniversary of the date on which the parties separated and ceased
         living together, it is rebuttably presumed that the parties did not
         enter into an agreement to be married.38
      Texas has a statute of limitations regarding common law marriage,
two years following separation or end of cohabitation, which solves
concerns regarding administrative and judicial efficiency and the
possibility of fraudulent claims. As will be stated below, Utah also has a
statute of limitations regarding actions for common law marriage.

      B. Common Law Marriage in Utah
     Utah provides an excellent example for the current state of common
law marriage not only because it provides for a statute of limitations for the
establishment of common law marriage, but because common law marriage
was abolished in Utah and resurrected again in 1987.39
     The Utah statute states:
         (1) A marriage which is not solemnized according to this chapter
         shall be legal and valid if a court or administrative order
         establishes that it arises out of a contract between two consenting
         parties who:(a) are capable of giving consent; (b) are legally
         capable of entering a solemnized marriage under the provisions
         of this chapter; (c) have cohabited; (d) mutually assume marital
         rights, duties, and obligations; and (e) who hold themselves out
         as and have acquired a uniform and general reputation as



36.   Estate of Claveria v. Claveria, 615 S.W.2d 164, 166 (Tex. 1981).
37.   Garza, supra note 31, at 13.
38.   TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 2.401(b) (Vernon 2005).
39.   See Bowman, supra note 2, at 749. “Utah was previously one of the states most
      opposed to common law marriage, presumably based on fears that the institution
      would be used as a way to reestablish polygamy.” Id. Utah’s primary reason for
      resurrecting the doctrine of common law marriage “was specifically to prevent
      couples from excluding one person’s income when applying for Aid to Families with
      Dependent Children (AFDC).” Id. at 749-50.
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548                     NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW                           [Vol. 40:541

         husband and wife.40
      While subsection (d) does not state “cohabitation” as the general
requirement here, mutually assuming “marital rights, duties, and
obligations” assumes cohabitation or a shared household. For those
jurisdictions recognizing common law marriage, the standards are similar
to those of Texas and Utah.41
      Again, Texas and Utah are the only two jurisdictions which take the
common law marriage doctrine one step further in stating a clear statute of
limitations to establish the informal relationship. Utah’s statute of
limitations is even shorter than that of Texas. “The determination or
establishment of a marriage under this section must occur during the
relationship described . . . or within one year following termination of that
relationship.”42 Again, the statute of limitations requirements presumably
cuts down on the possibility of fraudulent claims.43

      IV. THE CURRENT ALTERNATIVES TO COMMON LAW MARRIAGE

      A. Recognition of Marriage Through Contract
      In the case of Marvin v. Marvin, the California Supreme Court
recognized the rights of non-marital partners through contract.44 Lee
Marvin and Michelle Triola were romantically involved and lived together
for six years. Lee asked Michelle to move out after six years and shortly
thereafter refused to provide her with monetary support. Michelle sued
alleging the couple entered into an oral contract where the parties agreed to
share their efforts and earnings. In exchange Michelle agreed to give up her
career to serve as a homemaker to Lee. The plaintiff sought relief of half of
the property acquired during the relationship based on contract.45
      The court held that express contracts between non-marital partners
should be enforced unless consideration is based on sexual services and
therefore contrary to public policy. In addition, in the absence of an express
contract, the court should inquire into the conduct of the parties to
determine if there is an implied contract.46


40.   UTAH CODE ANN. § 30-1-4.5 (2003).
41.   Judge John B. Crawley notes that the requirements for common law marriage in
      Alabama are capacity, present agreement, and “public recognition” as man and wife.
      Crawley, supra note 28, at 405.
42.   UTAH CODE ANN. § 30-1-4.5(2) (2003).
43.   Bowman, supra note 2, at 749.
44.   557 P.2d 106, 110 (Cal. 1976).
45.   Id.
46.   Id.
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      Since the holding in Marvin, several states have adopted its holding
and reasoning.47 The recognition of non-marital partners through contract
has its limitations though. First, “[t]he implied-contract analysis proposed
by Marvin interjects more questions as to the intent of the parties than an
application of [the] common-law marriage doctrine.”48 In other words, the
common law marriage doctrine, as it exists in certain jurisdictions today,
provides clear standards for interpreting the intent of the parties while
recognition in contract does not. Second, recognition of non-marital
partners through contract fails to address situations involving government
benefits—namely worker’s compensation and social security.49 Third,
recognition of non-marital partners through contract is “tailored primarily
to the middle class,” assisting only those who acquire property and contract
about its division at the termination of the relationship.50 Recognition
through contract does not address the needs of non-marital partners who
may be seeking relief for domestic violence at the end of a relationship or
those who have minimal property to provide relief upon termination of the
relationship.

      B. The Conscription Approach
     Due to the increase in cohabitation of non-marital couples, many
industrialized nations have adopted what is now referred to as the
“conscriptive” model. “The conscriptive model imposes on the cohabitating
couple that has chosen to avoid marriage some or all of the obligations the
couple would have incurred had they chosen to marry.”51 For example, in
some Canadian provinces, there is a support obligation for non-marital
cohabitants who have lived together for one to three years; Australian states
extend marital property rights to non-marital cohabitants who have a
common child or who have lived together for at least two years; Italy and
Norway are both considering legislation that would give inheritance rights


47.   Crawley, supra note 28, at 412.
         Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and New
         York have limited recognition to only express agreements not founded
         on the meretricious relationship of the parties. Massachusetts, Nebraska,
         and Wyoming, while not commenting on the recognition of implied
         agreements, have recognized express agreements. Florida, Minnesota,
         and North Dakota require unmarried cohabitants to enter into a written
         agreement in order to be able to share property.
      Id.
48.   Id. at 415.
49.   See Bowman, supra note 2, at 774.
50.   Id.
51.   Garrison, supra note 18, at 818.
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550                    NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW                          [Vol. 40:541

to surviving non-marital cohabitants.52
      The American Law Institute has recently advocated the adoption of
the conscriptive approach as an alternative to the contract approach.53 The
ALI principles state that they do
         not require, as a predicate to finding the existence of a domestic
         partnership, that the parties had an implied or express agreement,
         or even that the facts meet the standard requirements of a
         quantum meruit claim. It instead relies, as do the marriage laws,
         on a status classification: property claims and support obligations
         presumptively arise between persons who qualify as domestic
         partners, as they do between legal spouses, without inquiry into
         each couple’s particular arrangement, except as the presumption
         is itself overcome by contract.54
       In other words, the conscriptive approach does not require evidence
of an agreement entered into by the non-marital cohabitants. The
relationship is presumed and the rights and benefits of formal marriage are
conferred.
       Due to the mere presumptions built into the conscriptive approach,
there are obvious problems. First of all, cohabitants and married couples
represent different demographic profiles.55 This clearly indicates that non-
marital cohabitants have opted out of the marriage relationship, so to
automatically include these individuals in the same rubric is dangerous and
degrades the institution of marriage (one of the arguments against the
recognition of common law marriage). Second, along the same lines, the
American Law Institute advocates the adoption of the conscriptive
approach for reasons of administrative and judicial efficiency.56 With the
presumption of a committed relationship, fraud and evidentiary problems
are avoided. The ALI cites to the conscriptive approach as more efficient
pointing out that the tests for proving common law marriage “are so hard to
determine that the potential for fraud and uncertainty outweighs the benefit
of the [common law marriage] doctrine.”57 As Marsha Garrison points out,
if the elements of common law marriage are so difficult to prove, “then one
must assume that the ‘anything relevant to life as a couple’ approach of
the . . . ALI principles would produce even more fraud and uncertainty,



52.   Id. at 818-19.
53.   Id. at 819.
54.   Id. at 837 (quoting A.L.I., PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW     OF   FAMILY DISSOLUTION:
      ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS § 6.03 cmt. b (2002)).
55.   See id. at 839-40.
56.   See id. at 850.
57.   Garrison, supra note 18, at 850.
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with even less offsetting benefit.”58

              V. A PROPOSAL TO REVIVE COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
      In Hewitt v. Hewitt, Victoria Hewitt and Robert Hewitt were together
fifteen years and had three children together.59 After Victoria became
pregnant with their first child, Robert told her they were man and wife and
would “share his life, his future, his earnings and his property.”60 Victoria
and Robert held themselves out as husband and wife, even telling their
respective parents they were such. That said, there was no formal ceremony
and common law marriage had long been abolished in Illinois.61 The parties
shared a joint account, Victoria contributed to Robert’s professional
reputation, and at the time of the suit, Victoria was working and earning a
significant salary. Victoria sought an equal division of the property
acquired during their relationship alleging an implied contract.62
      The Illinois Supreme Court held that Victoria’s claims were
unenforceable rejecting the recognition of contract from the Marvin court.63
The court held that Victoria’s claims violated public policy in that they
contradicted the intent of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage
Act.64 The court reasoned an award in this case would jeopardize marriage
as an institution, revive common law marriage (previously abolished in
Illinois in 1905), and contravene public policy. The court also stated that
the traditional rule (stated prior to the Marvin trilogy) was that “‘[a]n
agreement in consideration of future illicit cohabitation between the
plaintiffs is void.’”65
      The Hewitt court feared the revival of common law marriage without
reason. As stated previously, the concerns which led to the destruction of
common law marriage were as follows: the importance of the institution of
marriage, interracial marriage and eugenics, effect on third parties,
fraudulent claims, and administrative and judicial efficiency of litigating
common law marriage claims.66 I will deal with each of these concerns
individually. First, the recognition of common law marriage does not
diminish the importance of the institution of marriage but bolsters it. The


58.   Id.
59.   394 N.E.2d 1204, 1205 (Ill. 1979).
60.   Id.
61.   See id. at 1210 (describing how the Illinois Legislature abolished common law
      marriage in 1905).
62.   See id. at 1205.
63.   See id. at 1210 (citing Marvin v. Marvin, 557 P.2d 106, 123 (Cal. 1976)).
64.   Id.
65.   Hewitt, 394 N.E.2d at 1208 (quoting Wallace v. Rappley, 103 Ill. 229, 249 (1882)).
66.   See Bowman, supra note 2, at 750.
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552                     NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW                          [Vol. 40:541

recognition of non-marital cohabitation by contract and the conscriptive
approach degrades the importance of the institution of marriage by giving
non-marital cohabitants the rights and benefits of marriage with no clear
standard. Second, the same concerns of interracial marriage and eugenics
do not exist in our present society. Interracial marriages are recognized and
eugenics concerns are no longer as prevalent. Third, common law marriage
solves the problems for third parties. “[C]ohabitation contracts cannot
confer on the contracting parties the right to receive government benefits or
to bring claims for matters such as wrongful death or loss of consortium,
whereas common law marriages may provide such remedies.”67 The family
courts will make the determination for the third parties as to who is married
under common law marriage and who is not.
      The criticisms of common law marriage that still hold strong today
are those concerning fraudulent claims and administrative and judicial
efficiency. However, the uncertainty in the application of the contract and
conscriptive approaches is more likely to cause problems of fraud and
administrative and judicial efficiency. Common law marriage provides a
clear test and has clear evidentiary requirements. In addition, if we were to
destroy legal doctrines based merely on the concern of fraudulent claims
and administrative and judicial efficiency, we would be lawless.
Administrative and judicial efficiency is a common concern throughout
family law and will continue to be. In my opinion, due to the constant
criticism of the efficiency of family courts, family law judges are more
equipped to deal with the administrative and judicial efficiency problems
which may arise.
      In addition, “[o]ne way to avoid some of the evidentiary problems
associated with common law marriage is to adopt a short statute of
limitations,” as is done in Texas and Utah.68 “Such a simple expedient
would prevent litigants from relying on stale evidence and shaky
recollections or waiting to bring a claim until the defendant cohabitant is
dead and unable to speak for himself.”69
      Changes in society have led to an increase in cohabitation among
non-marital couples. This change has created a need for legal doctrine
which protects the institution of marriage and protects judicial efficiency
while protecting the rights of non-marital couples who see their
relationships as an informal marriage. As stated above, recognition through


67.   Twila L. Perry, The “Essentials of Marriage”: Reconsidering the Duty of Support
      and Services, 15 YALE J. L. & FEMINISM 1, 48 (2003) (footnote omitted).
68.   Garrison, supra note 18, at 886 (citing UTAH CODE ANN. § 30-1-4.5(2) (2003)); see
      also TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 2.401(b) (Vernon 2005) (stating that an action must be
      brought within two years following the termination of the relationship).
69.   Garrison, supra note 18, at 886.
GARZA MACRO                                                      2/15/2006 11:01 AM




2006]                  COMMON LAW MARRIAGE                                    553

contract and the conscriptive approach are not extensive and efficient
enough. The clear favorable alternative is the recognition of common law
marriage by more American jurisdictions. Common law marriage doctrine
provides a clear legal test, protecting administrative and judicial efficiency,
and looks closely at the intent of the parties to the relationship, protecting
each individual. The acceptance of common law marriage throughout the
United States is a logical reaction to the current social changes in
committed relationships and absence of a sufficient legal doctrine.
GARZA MACRO                            2/15/2006 11:01 AM




554           NEW ENGLAND LAW REVIEW    [Vol. 40:541

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