The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would end state recognition of common law marriage in Oklahoma. The measure is Senate Bill 1977 by Sen. Earl Garrison, a Democrat from Muskogee. Garrison said only 10 states still recognize common law marriages.
“I believe there are two issues at stake. I believe by ending the practice of common law marriage in Oklahoma, and requiring a couple to get a license and exchange vows we will actually strengthen the institution of marriage,” Garrison said. “I also believe this gives greater protection to the individuals and families involved when it comes to property and other assets.”
In common law marriages, a couple does not get a marriage license or participate in a civil or religious marriage ceremony, but lives together and represents themselves as a married couple, and may file taxes jointly or share bank accounts and other assets. If SB 1977 became law, common law marriages would no longer be recognized after November, 2010. Common law marriages entered into before that date would still be recognized or “grandfathered” by the state.
“My interest in this issue came as the result of an incident involving a family in my district. Their son died in a tragic accident, and a young woman he had been living with later claimed they’d been in a common law marriage, though the family said the son had never represented the relationship as a marriage,” Garrison said. “In the end, she got all his property and his life insurance, but did not use one dime of his money to help pay for a headstone for the young man’s grave. I’m sure there are other examples of this kind of
abuse, which is why Oklahoma should close the books on common law marriage.”
SB 1977 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.