Nebraska Common Law Marriage

What is Common-Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage is a union of two persons who agree to live together as a married couple and share marital duties and responsibilities without being legally wedded. It's recognized in several U.S states, including Kansas, South Carolina, Montana, Utah, Iowa, and Colorado. Common-law married couples do not have a marriage license and do not solemnize their wedding according to the law in their states of residence.

Why Choose a Common-Law Marriage?

A common law marriage may be a good fit for persons who wish to sidestep the financial requirements of a traditional ceremony or couples who are simply uninterested in conventional options. In states that support this type of union, common-law married couples get to enjoy the same rights and entitlements as couples in conventional marriages. Some of these include:

  • Social security benefits
  • Spousal support
  • Tax deductions or exemptions
  • Jail visitation rights
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Making emergency medical decisions on a partner’s behalf
  • Child custody rights

Regardless of the rights listed above, common-law marriages have a few disadvantages. These include:

  • A common-law marriage may be difficult to prove. While some states offer the option of official documentation, other states may have no equivalent. In the event of a separation, divorce, or death of a spouse, proving the existence of a common-law marriage might be difficult. This also makes it very tedious for parties to apply for and receive rights and entitlements accessible to common-law married partners
  • Although common-law marriages are similar between jurisdictions, requirements may differ between states. What constitutes a common-law marriage in one state may be inadequate in another state
  • A common-law married couple may have trouble continuing their union upon relocation out of the United States. Other countries or jurisdictions may not afford couples any rights or benefits unless they formalize their union according to the laws in the new jurisdiction of residence.

Marriage in Nebraska

In 2018, Nebraska had a marriage rate of 6 per 1,000 inhabitants and a divorce rate of 2.9 divorces per 1,000 persons. Furthermore, a 2019 survey revealed that 54% of all males at least 15 years old were married, slightly higher than the 53% recorded for females. The survey also revealed that in the same age demographic, 9% of males were divorced versus 11% of females.

Does Nebraska Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

Nebraska has not recognized common-law marriages created within the state since it abolished the union in 1923. However, in compliance with the U.S. constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, Nebraska recognizes all common-law marriages created in states that allow this type of union. This means that common-law marriages created in states where this type of union is recognized are also considered valid if the couples move to Nebraska. Outside of this, traditional marriage is the only type of union with supporting laws in Nebraska. Other alternatives, such as domestic partnerships and cohabitation agreements, are not available in Nebraska.

What are the Requirements for a Common-Law Marriage in Nebraska?

Nebraska does not recognize common-law marriages and therefore has no requirements for establishing this type of union in the state. However, Nebraska recognizes common-law marriages created in other jurisdictions with supporting laws if the union meets the requirements in that state.

Requirements for a common-law marriage may differ between states. However, most jurisdictions require that intending common-law couples meet the following requirements:

  • Each person should be at least 18 years old. Younger persons may be eligible under certain conditions. Some states require parental consent for minors, a court order, or both.
  • Both parties are not related by blood
  • Both parties understand the union and willingly provide individual consent
  • Both parties present themselves to the public as a married couple
  • Neither party is currently married to another party or a part of another recognized union
  • Both parties live together as a married couple

How Many Years Do You Have to Live Together for Common-Law Marriage in Nebraska?

Nebraska does not have a cohabitation requirement to establish a common-law marriage. However, since Nebraska recognizes unions established in other jurisdictions, the common-law marriage must meet the cohabitation requirement in the state where the union was created. Some states do not specify the required number of years. In other states, numbers may vary.

What Does It Mean to Be Legally Free to Marry in Nebraska?

Persons who are legally free to marry in Nebraska have met the state’s marriage requirements and may receive a marriage license to solemnize their union. According to Nebraska law, the following must be true of prospective couples:

  • Both parties are at least 18 years old. N.R.S. 42-105 provides conditions for a minor to receive a marriage license. The statute requires parental consent from one parent if both parents live together, or the parent with legal custody if the parents live separately. In addition, consent must be obtained from the surviving parent if one parent is deceased, or from the legal guardian, conservator, or caregiver, if both parents are deceased
  • Neither party is currently married. Divorced parties may be required to provide a final divorce decree
  • Both parties are mentally competent enough for marriage relations
  • Parties are not related in a way that will void the marriage, according to N.R.S. 42-103(3)

What is an Informal Marriage in Nebraska?

The “informal marriage” term is used to describe a marriage if created in Texas, according to Section 2.401 of the Texas Family Code. All common-law marriages established in states with supporting laws are referred to as informal marriages in Texas.

How Do You Prove Common-Law Marriage in Nebraska?

Proving a common-law marriage requires official documentation that attests to the creation of the union. Some states allow common-law married persons to obtain affidavits that can serve as evidence of the union. Other states offer other options, such as the Declaration of Informal Marriage available in Texas. These documents may help prove the existence of a common-law marriage in Nebraska. Couples may also present other documents that support the common-law marriage and serve as evidence of a shared life. Options include the following:

  • Joint tax returns, bank accounts, and credit accounts
  • Insurance policies listing one partner as the other’s spouse
  • Documents showing that both partners adopted one surname
  • A child’s birth certificate with both partners listed as parents
  • Rental agreements or joint leases listing both partners
  • Any proof that both parties shared a common residence
  • An affidavit from a close relative or friend confirming the relationship
  • Any witness statement which confirms that both persons publicly introduced themselves as spouses or that one party referred to the other as a wife or a husband
  • Evidence of loans and mortgages jointly taken by both parties

Third-party websites may provide a convenient solution to obtaining marriage-related public records. These non-governmental platforms come with intuitive search tools that help simplify the process of accessing single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain public marriage records, requesters may need to provide:

  • The full name of both spouses (include first, middle, and last names)
  • The date the marriage occurred (month, date, and year)
  • The location where the marriage occurred (city and county)

How Do You Prove Common-Law Marriage in Nebraska After Death?

Documents that support the existence of a common-law marriage may be used to prove its existence if one party dies. The surviving partner may present declarations, affidavits, or other documents which prove that both parties lived a common life. Where necessary, courts may also consider statements from persons close to the couple who confirm that the union existed. Such statements may confirm that the parties lived together and publicly presented themselves as a married couple.

Do Common-Law Marriages Require a Divorce?

Ending a common-law marriage in Nebraska requires a divorce. According to N.R.S. 42-117, all marriages contracted outside Nebraska are considered valid in all courts in the state, as long as they are valid according to the laws of that jurisdiction. This statute provides the necessary legal backing for ending a common-law marriage in Nebraska through the traditional divorce process.

Since Nebraska is a no-fault divorce state, one party may file a divorce petition, stating that the common-law marriage is irretrievably broken. However, while it is not necessary to fault either party, the partner seeking the divorce must provide evidence of incompatibility to the court. This could be a personal testimony or testimony from family and close friends.

N.R.S. 42-349 provides residency requirements for a divorce in Nebraska. According to state law, parties cannot file for divorce unless at least one partner has lived in Nebraska with a bona fide intention of making the state a permanent home for at least one year. In addition, military personnel stationed in Nebraska for at least one year before the filing also qualify.

Legal Separation in Nebraska

Couples may also consider a legal separation instead of a divorce. Also known as judicial separation, legal separation is a process that allows a couple to be legally separated while remaining married. Spouses may obtain legal separation to handle issues such as alimony or property division, yet remain married by law. If interested, both parties may still petition for a final divorce. Partners must note that legally separated parties cannot remarry until the court issues a final divorce decree.

Does a Common-Law Wife Have Rights in Nebraska?

A common-law wife has rights in Nebraska if the common-law marriage is considered valid in the state. Common-law married partners can access these rights as long as the union was established in a state that recognizes such arrangements. Any partner that can prove the existence of a common-law marriage may be eligible for rights such as spousal benefits available to traditionally married couples. Property rights may also be accessible if the union dissolves or one party dies.

Can a Common-Law Wife Collect Social Security in Nebraska?

Common-law wives are eligible to receive social security benefits. However, this option is only possible if the union was established outside Nebraska, in a jurisdiction that recognizes common-law marriages. Requesting parties must be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply for social security benefits. Interested persons must complete a Statement of Marital Relationship Form and submit it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) along with a Statement Regarding Marriage form filled by a blood relative. Details required include the following:

  • Both parties’ names
  • Residential details, including city or town, and state
  • Length of cohabitation
  • Month and year the couple began cohabiting
  • Specific periods of separation since cohabitation began
  • Names of children born of the relationship where applicable. Details should include each child’s date and place of birth
  • A list of persons who were aware of the common-law marriage, other than the couple’s children. Such persons may include close relatives, neighbors, and employers

To request social security benefits, eligible partners may apply online, call (800) 772-1213, TTY (800) 325-0778, or visit a local social security office.

Are Common-Law Wives Entitled to Half in Nebraska?

In Nebraska, common-law wives are not entitled to half. Nebraska is not a community property state, which means that the state does not assume that all property acquired during the relationship should be split 50-50. Instead, Nebraska has an equitable distribution policy employed to share property when a marriage ends. Basically, the court tries to distribute property between partners based on several factors.

The courts first try to figure out which assets are personal property or marital assets. Personal property includes all property owned by each partner before the marriage and other assets like inheritances. To share marital assets, courts may consider factors such as each partner’s contributions to the marriage, earning ability, and economic situation.

How Do You Get a Common-Law Marriage Affidavit in Nebraska?

Couples in Nebraska must obtain common-law marriage affidavits from the states where the unions were established. Since Nebraska does not recognize common-law marriages, the state does not offer affidavits to its common-law married resident couples.

When Did Common-Law Marriage End in Nebraska?

Nebraska abolished common-law marriages in 1923. Currently, only common-law marriages established in states with supporting laws are considered valid in Nebraska.

What is Considered Common-Law Marriage in Nebraska?

Except for common-law marriages established in Nebraska before 1923, the state does not recognize this type of union. Requirements and other elements of a common-law marriage considered valid in Nebraska are recognized with the other jurisdictions’ establishing laws in consideration. Before validating a common-law marriage in Nebraska, courts must first confirm that the union qualifies as a common-law marriage in the state where it was created.

Does the Federal Government Recognize Nebraska Common-Law Marriages?

The federal government does not recognize Nebraska common-law marriages. As of 2021, the federal government only recognizes common-law marriages in states with supporting laws. These jurisdictions include South Carolina, New Hampshire, Utah, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Iowa, and the District of Columbia.