By Jedidiah McKeehan

The term “common law marriage” is one you may have heard of at some point. A common law marriage is where two people hold themselves out as married, consider the other person their spouse, and may even have taken the step of having the same last name. These people have never had a marriage ceremony or obtained a marriage certificate.

In Tennessee, you cannot create or establish a common law marriage. That means that even if you call someone your husband or wife if you only reside in Tennessee while doing so, I am sorry, you are not married to that person who you are calling your spouse.

Tennessee does recognize common law marriages. That means that a couple can establish or create a common law marriage in a state that allows such (Texas is one example), later move to Tennessee, and Tennessee will recognize the common law marriage that the couple started in Texas as a legal marriage.

So can a couple have a common law marriage in Tennessee? Yes, but it must be a marriage that started in a state that allows the creation of such and then that couple later moved to Tennessee after the common law marriage was created.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.