The short answer is yes. However, it is important to first understand if you actually have a valid common-law marriage. Contrary to popular belief, only some states still allow common law marriages, and they have various requirements for what constitutes a common-law marriage.

In states that still allow it, common-law marriage is a legally binding marital relationship between two people without the requirements of obtaining a marriage license and having a marriage ceremony. In general, the requirements of common law marriage are capacity to marry, an agreement to be married, and that the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife to the public, but the requirements vary by state.

It is also important to determine in what state the marriage may have occurred. While the state of Kansas allows common law marriages, the state of Missouri does not. However, if a common law marriage is established in Kansas, and the parties later move to Missouri, the marriage will be recognized in Missouri. For couples that live near the Kansas-Missouri border, the effect of calling another person your husband or wife can have important consequences.

Ultimately, because common-law marriage creates a legally binding relationship between two people, the parties are still required to divorce to end the legal relationship between them. They are also entitled to all the same rights as a couple with a formal marriage relating to property division, child custody, and alimony. If you believe you might have a common law marriage and you and your spouse have ended your relationship, you should speak to an attorney to discuss the prospect of a divorce.

The choice of a lawyer is an important one and should not be based solely on advertisements.