Oklahoma recognizes common law marriages, but only with proof

Oklahoma recognizes common law marriages, but only with proof

Molly E. Tipton

One of the most popular Google searches in Oklahoma as it relates to matrimonial law is, “Does Oklahoma recognize common law marriage?” The short answer is, Oklahoma recognizes two forms of marriage: ceremonial marriage and common law marriage. As recently as 2019, the Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus to an Oklahoma district court judge who had entered a Summary Order refusing to acknowledge a common law marriage. 

Oklahoma recognizes common law marriages, but only with proof

The doctrine of common law marriage dates back to the common law of England and has since been modified by the statutes of this country, and, in turn, Oklahoma. Ceremonial marriage is established by a license, witnesses and a certificate of marriage. On the other hand, there are several elements that tend to prove the existence of common law marriage: 

1. An actual and mutual agreement between the spouses to be husband and wife. 

2. A permanent relationship.

3. An exclusive relationship.

4. Proved by cohabitation as man and wife.

5. The parties to the marriage must hold themselves out publicly as husband and wife. Although Oklahoma Statute §43-7 “Solemnization of marriages” implies that marriage can only exist by way of formal, witnessed ceremony by a judge or religious authority and must be filed with the court clerk, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed the validity of common law marriage when it ruled in 2001, in Standefer v. Standefer, that a common law marriage is formed when “the minds of the parties meet in consent at the same time,” and that factors 2-5 are merely evidence to be weighed in considering whether an actual or mutual agreement to be husband and wife was established. In the event a common law marriage is disputed, the party wishing to establish the existence of a common law marriage carries the burden of proving it using clear and convincing evidence.