It is possible for a couple to be recognized as each other’s spouse without having undergone any legal or traditional ceremony or obtaining any legal documentation that proves them to be so. This kind of recognition is called common law marriage, which is also known as a de facto marriage or marriage by habit and repute. Dependent on the jurisdiction, common law marriage can be legally binding upon both spouses or such a marriage can have no legal bearing at all.
Unlike a ceremonial marriage, a common law marriage has no legal documentation, whether a license to marry or a civil registry, or a ceremony to prove that the couple is indeed married. Rather, a common law marriage occurs when rights given to a married couple are also given to a couple who meets the requirements and conditions that define a common law marriage in the jurisdiction where they reside. These conditions and requirement may mean having been together for a certain period of years or a declaration or acknowledgement of both individuals of a union. As the name suggests, common law marriage adheres to the common law definition in the jurisdiction where it is to be applied.
However, not all states recognize common law marriages. Common law marriages are not subject to divorce, but in the event that a spouse wishes to dissolve the union, he or she may apply for dissolution of marriage with a court of law. Some states also consider annulment of common law marriages, such as the Texas.