What are the requirements for me to receive my deceased husband's social security benefits?

Full Question:

I lived with my husband begining June 1992 the marriage started in Washington D.C. and we stayed there 2 weeks and moved to his home in Maryland and and lived there until his death July 1995. We were not legally married until March 1995. We also spent a week in Alabama during this period of time however his divorce was not final until 1994 after I first moved to D.C. and after our trip to Alabama. He worked in D.C. and I worked on the outskirts and we were together at least once weekly in D.C. while we were living together until his death, and always held ourselves out as man and wife can common law and defacto marriage be used to establish common law marriage for at lease as year in order that I might qualify for his social security benefit?
04/27/2009   |   Category: Marriage ยป Common Law M...   |   State: West Virginia   |   #16221


A minority of states continue to recognize common law, or informal, marriages. Many states only recognize common law marriages entered into prior to a certain date, but all states will recognize the validity of a common law marriage if it is recognized in the state where the parties reside, agreed to be married, and hold themselves out as husband and wife. Common law marriage allows persons who live together as man and wife for a significant time and with the intent of having an exclusive relationship akin to a marriage to have the legal rights of formally married persons, including rights related to insurance and other benefits, property distribution on dissolution of the marriage, and distribution of property upon the death of one spouse. For a common law marriage to achieve validity as a marriage, the couple generally must agree to enter into a martial arrangement, must cohabit with one another, and must hold themselves out as husband and wife to others.

An existing marriage will prevent someone from being married in a common law marriage, as it is considered an impediment to marriage. The answer will depend on thedate of the divorce in 1994. Maryland doesn't recognize common law marriage. In the District of Columbia, the other elements of a common-law marriage are: (1) "an express, mutual, present intent and agreement to be husband and wife"; "followed by" (2) "cohabitation in good faith." In Alabama, is capacity to enter into a marriage, present agreement or consent to be husband and wife, public recognition of the existence of the marriage, and consummation.

The judge will require proof of intent and reputation- the proof may include tax returns, loan applications, title documents such as deeds, driver’s licenses, bank accounts and witness statements as to how the parties introduced each other. Once the marriage is established, each party will have all the rights that are available to a spouse or widow under state law. Social Security will recognize a common law marriage if it is recognized under the applicable state law.

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