Information on Common Law Marriages in Tennessee

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Common-law marriage is an institution that exists in just 15 states within the United States. One of the states that does not comply with common-law marriage is Tennessee. Common-law marriage is a nonofficial commitment to a relationship that involves a mutual and permanent agreement between two parties who would otherwise be a husband and wife.

Common-Law Marriage and Tennessee

The state of Tennessee does not recognize common-law marriages. In order to be considered husband and wife, you must apply for a validated marriage license from your county clerk's office. Newlyweds will receive their marriage certificate after the wedding officiator signs the marriage license.


If you move to Tennessee from one of the 15 states that recognizes common-law marriage, then Tennessee will recognize the agreement between the two parties. According to the Department of Human Services, the state only accepts common-law marriages established outside of Tennessee and from a state where it was formerly recognized.

Children Under Common-Law

Children conceived from recognized common-law marriages who now reside in Tennessee are considered legitimately bound children to the mother and father. As a result, both parents are responsible for the financial welfare of the children upon residing in Tennessee as a recognized common-law partnership form another state.

Common-Law States

Your common-law marriage will only be recognized in Tennessee if you moved from a state that legally recognized it. States where common-law marriage is legally recognized are Alabama, Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Montana, Kansas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah and South Carolina. (New Hampshire and Utah only recognize common-law marriages under certain circumstances.) The District of Columbia also recognizes common-law marriages. States with grandfathered clauses for common-law marriage include Idaho, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Ohio. This means that only common-law marriages documented before a specified date set forth by the state are recognized.


About the Author

Living in New York City, Nicholas Briano has been a professional journalist since 2002. He writes for "The Wave," a community weekly covering the borough of Queens. Briano holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brooklyn College.