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Inside the CastleLaw and the Family in 20th Century America$
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Joanna L. Grossman and Lawrence M. Friedman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149820

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149820.001.0001

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Common-Law Marriage

Common-Law Marriage

(p.78) Chapter Three Common-Law Marriage
Inside the Castle

Joanna L. Grossman

Lawrence M. Friedman

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes the adventures—and the decline and fall—of the doctrine of common-law marriage in the twentieth century. A common-law marriage was an informal, but perfectly legal, marriage. If a man and woman agreed with each other to be husband and wife, then, from that moment on, they were husband and wife, without a marriage license, a judge or clergyman, witnesses, or anything else. A series of court decisions, in the first half of the nineteenth century, established the doctrine in most of the states. The chapter looks at the social factors which led to the decline of the common-law marriage.

Keywords:   marriage, common-law marriage, doctrine, decline, informal marriage, social factors

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