What are the implications of being in a common law relationship? Does God according to his Word sanction this union and how can Christians differentiate between "fornication" and a union where it is an implied marriage? I'm still digesting the political/religious implications myself, so I'm looking for feedback. One aspect is that these unions would not be subject to the decrease in benefits that married couples have. Any thoughts? :type: Excerpts from http://www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/commonlaw.htm Before modern domestic relations statutes, couples became married by a variety of means that developed from custom. These became the elements of a "common-law marriage," or a marriage that arose by operation of law through the parties' conduct, instead of through a ceremony. In many ways, the theory of common-law marriage is one of estoppel - meaning that parties who have told the world they are married should not be allowed to claim that they are not married in a dispute between the parties themselves. Currently, only 9 states (Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas) and the District of Columbia recognize common-law marriages contracted within their borders. In addition, five states have "grandfathered" common law marriage (Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania) allowing those established before a certain date to be recognized. New Hampshire recognizes common law marriage only for purposes of probate, and Utah recognizes common law marriages only if they have been validated by a court or administrative order. Among those states that permit a common-law marriage to be contracted, the elements of a common-law marriage vary slightly from state to state. The indispensable elements are (1) cohabitation and (2) "holding out." "Holding out" means that the parties tell the world that they are husband and wife through their conduct, such as the woman's assumption of the man's surname, filing a joint federal income tax return, etc. This means that mere cohabitation cannot, by itself, rise to the level of constituting a marriage. Of course, many disputes arise when facts (such as intentions of the parties or statements made to third parties) are in controversy. The United States Constitution requires every state to accord "Full Faith and Credit" to the laws of its sister states. Thus, a common-law marriage that is validly contracted in a state where such marriages are legal will be valid even in states where such marriages cannot be contracted and may be contrary to public policy.