Q: Minors Formalizing a Common-Law Marriage in the District of Columbia
My common-law husband and I have cohabitated together outside of Washington D.C. and been together for almost a year. We present each other as husband and wife and we would like to formalize our marriage by having it recorded so that it is recognized in other states. We are both under eighteen, so the problem is that a normal marriage in Washington D.C. requires parental consent from the parents of both minors, but I am estranged from my parents and they would not approve. Five in a thousand Americans under the age of eighteen are married and we already call each other husband and wife, we would just like it formally recorded and also to change last names. From what I’ve seen, common-law marriage in the District of Columbia has no age requirement and we could go to the Superior Court. Am I missing anything? How would we go about formalizing our common-law marriage and getting it entered into the public record?
A: You cannot establish a common law marriage in DC unless you have been living in DC and meet all the requirements for establishing the marriage in DC. You state you have been living together outside DC--that will not qualify, unless you are in a jurisdiction that recognizes common law marriage. Maryland and Virginia do not recognize common law marriage established in their jurisdictions, but will recognize the marriage if legally established in another jurisdiction that does allow it. Therefore, you would not qualify as common law husband and wife under DC law since you do not reside there and have not met the requirements there. Finally, until you both turn 18 years of age, no marriage is legal without consent of the parents or legal guardians of both minor spouses. You cannot get around this requirement, and any marriage of minors without parental consent will be void and not recognized, which will have a significant impact on marital rights. You will have to wait until you have the consent of your parents--and document it--or until you both turn 18 and can marry legally.
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