Common-law marriage is a marriage in which there is no license issued by a governmental agency, there is no marriage certificate filed with the government, and there is no solemnization of the marriage in the presence of witnesses. The title of this post is ironic, because Minnesota does not recognize common-law marriage. The Minnesota legislature abolished common-law marriage in 1941. However, Minnesota does recognize common-law marriages that were legal contracted outside of Minnesota.
Several states still recognize common-law marriage, but most states have either abolished or never recognized common-law marriage. Generally, what defines a common-law marriage are (a) the intent to be husband and wife; (b) cohabitation; and (c) public recognition or declaration of being husband and wife.
The practical significance of Minnesota not recognizing common-law marriages is the fact that many unmarried couples live together, pool their resources, share expenses, and jointly incur debts. This deprives the individuals who cohabit outside of marriage of certain rights, and shields them from certain obligations. Couples who cohabit long-term, without entering into a legal marriage, should make informed and deliberate decisions about raising children together, co-owning real estate, jointly signing off on debts or mortgages, or accepting and/or refraining from employment.