A bill in the Kansas House would make common law marriage in Kansas illegal effective July 2017. Under the bill, common law marriages entered into before July 1 would be considered legal.

What exactly is a common law marriage? A common law marriage is an informal marriage, where two people agree to be married without a formal ceremony or a marriage license. You are considered married by common law if you present yourself as married. Examples include filing joint tax returns, or titling a car or a deed to a home as husband and wife.

Common law marriage has been legal in Kansas since the 1800s when it was often hard to find a minister or someone legally allowed to marry you, so common law marriage became an acceptable practice.

Kansas is only one of eight state where common law marriage is still acceptable.

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly why most states no longer accept common law marriages, but if you ask lawyers or even funeral directors they probably have quite a few examples of how common law marriages have proved challenging.

The potential for fraud and family challenges are considerable. However, those who support common law marriage say it encourages marriage and this state should do all it can to encourage marriage.

The bill had a hearing earlier this month, but a vote hasn’t been taken to move it forward out of committee. If the bill doesn’t get a positive vote by committee before the end of this month, the issue is dead for this year. However, you can probably expect to see it return again next year. The bill number is HB2101.

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