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Common-Law Marriage & VA Loans

Common-law marriage is an old concept and an often misunderstood one, but common-law marriages can qualify when it comes to being eligible for a VA home loan.

A couple in their kitchen with a dog.
A couple in their kitchen with a dog.

What is Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriages are basically marriages where two people live together for a certain period of time, present themselves to family and friends as married but never actually have a wedding ceremony or obtain a marriage license.

Several states don’t recognize these unique unions, but on occasion, questions about common-law marriage do arise for veterans looking to use their VA loan benefits.

Does the VA recognize Common-Law Marriage?

The VA and VA home loan lenders can recognize common-law marriages for home loan purposes, provided you’re buying in a state that recognizes common-law marriage, and you and your spouse meet the state’s requirements.

Eligible Common-Law Marriage States

Only about a dozen states continue to recognize new common-law marriages. A few states that have outlawed new common-law marriages still recognize older ones that have been “grandfathered in.”

According to legal website Nolo, here’s the list of states that recognize at least some common-law marriages:

  • Alabama (if created before Jan. 1, 2017)
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia (if created before Jan. 1, 1997)
  • Idaho (if created before Jan. 1., 1996)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
  • Ohio (if created before Oct. 10, 1991)
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania (if created before Jan. 1, 2005)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Requirements for what constitutes a common-law marriage can vary by state. Couples who live together for a certain number of years -- seven is a frequent one cited -- don’t automatically become common-law spouses.

Veterans, service members and their families can check with their applicable state office or consult an attorney for more information about common-law marriage requirements and guidelines.

In addition, different VA lenders may have different requirements, so talk with a loan officer in more detail.

Determining your common-law status can be critical for couples who each want to be on a VA-backed mortgage. For veterans seeking a VA loan, having a co-borrower who is neither a spouse nor an eligible veteran requires a down payment of 12.5 percent to 14.5 percent.

Talk with a Veterans United VA Loan Expert for more details about your specific situation.

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