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common law rights

Common Law Rights: Understanding Your Legal Protections

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Yes, the United States indeed has a strong common law system. It goes beyond just the written laws. Over half of the world’s people follow some form of this law. Initially from Britain, it became important in North America too.

This type of law is not written down like others. It comes from past court decisions. These decisions, known as legal precedents, help guide new cases. This way, the legal system stays stable and fair for everyone. Knowing your common law rights is key. It helps protect your interests, whether you’re a business owner or an artist.

Key Takeaways

  • Common law is a body of unwritten laws based on legal precedents established by the courts in the US and other countries.
  • The US common-law system evolved from a British tradition that spread to North America during the colonial period.
  • Common law relies on detailed records of similar situations and statutes to guide decision-making in cases where the outcome cannot be determined based on existing written laws.
  • Common law promotes stability and consistency in the legal system by emphasizing precedent and allowing judges to adapt to changing societal needs.
  • Understanding your common law rights is crucial for protecting your property, intellectual property, and other legal interests.

What Is Common Law?

Common law, or case law, is a set of unwritten rules. These laws come from court decisions over time. Judges and juries’ opinions influence common law. It inspires new laws too. Legal precedent, known as stare decisis, guides how we use past cases to decide new ones.

Defining Common Law

Common law builds from judges’ decisions. It’s not written down in one place like civil law. This system is adaptable, changing as social needs and our understanding grow. In civil law, everything is found in written laws made by the government. But in common law, cases and judges’ opinions are key.

Common Law vs. Civil Law

Common law and civil law systems both aim for consistent justice. But they do it differently. Civil law relies on written codes set by the government. Common law looks at past cases to make decisions, which can vary by area. This makes civil law less flexible in some ways.

Common Law Civil Law
Uncodified, relying on judicial decisions and precedent Codified, with comprehensive legal codes specifying all matters brought before a court
Evolves to meet changing social needs and improved understanding Distinct separation between substantive law, procedural law, and penal law
Judicial opinions carry equal weight with statutes Roots back to the Roman Empire and Justinian’s legal compilations
Case-by-case traditions of individual jurisdictions Standardized outcomes across regions

About one-third of the world’s people live under common law. This includes mixed systems too. Places like the USA and parts of Canada and the UK use common law.

Common Law vs Civil Law

“Common law is generally uncodified, relying on judicial decisions and precedent, while civil law is codified, with comprehensive legal codes specifying all matters brought before a court.”

Common Law Marriage

In the United States, common law marriage lets couples act like they are married even if they have not officially tied the knot. While most states do not accept this type of marriage, some do. They require specific things to be in place.

Currently, just a few states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia accept common-law marriages. These states are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Some states used to include Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, and Pennsylvania but they decided to stop or limit it.

The rules for a common law marriage can differ by state. However, common aspects include living together for a period, having the ability to marry, and intending to marry each other. Some benefits and rights of being married might not apply to these couples.

“While common-law marriages are recognized in a small number of states, the legal and financial implications can be complex. Couples should carefully consider the pros and cons before pursuing this type of union.”

The situation with common law marriage is not consistent across the U.S. Some states have ended it, and others have mixed rules. Before choosing this path, it’s crucial to check the current laws in your state.

Common Law Marriage

In conclusion, common law marriage is becoming less common. For many couples, a traditional marriage with a legal ceremony offers more security and benefits.

Common Law Rights

In a common law marriage, you might get some rights like a formal one. These rights can let you do things like access healthcare and make medical choices for each other. You also have rights to visit your partner in hospitals and see personal records.

Splitting property, deciding on kids, getting support money, inheritances, and saving tax are also included. These rights help keep both partners safe, especially if one relies on the other for money.

Benefits of Common Law Rights

The rights of common law marriages change by state, but here are some general perks:

  • Healthcare benefits: You might be able to join each other’s health plans, which is great if someone gets sick.
  • Hospital visitation rights: You get the same say in medical decisions and visits as married couples during crises.
  • Emergency medical decisions: You’re allowed to make big health choices for your partner if needed, including end-of-life decisions.
  • Personal records: Accessing each other’s info helps in managing the house together and making decisions.
  • Property division: If you split, you might have rights about what to do with your stuff.
  • Child custody: You share the right to be a parent and decide who the kids stay with.
  • Spousal support: There’s a chance you could get help financially after a breakup.
  • Inheritance rights: You may get a part of the estate if your partner passes away.
  • Tax deductions: Enjoy some tax benefits, just like married couples do.

But, common law marriages can be tough. Proving you’re in one can be hard, and sometimes it triggers legal problems, like in a divorce. If one partner says it wasn’t a common law marriage, the other might not be protected.

“The common law evolves gradually to meet changing social needs and better understanding, adapting to new trends without sharp breaks.”


Common law rights and protections are vital in our society. They come from customary laws and indigenous traditions. These ideas have kept our freedoms and community interests safe for centuries.

Understanding common law can be tough, but it’s crucial. It helps guide your family, property, and personal rights. Super Attorneys Of Irvine are experts who can help you understand and protect your rights.

Knowing about your rights gives you power. Getting the right information is key to protect what’s yours. For help, contact the Super Attorneys Of Irvine at 949-996-9546. Or, check out their site at //


What is common law?

Common law is a set of unwritten rules. They are based on past court decisions rather than written laws. It’s used when no rule fits a current situation.

How does common law differ from civil law?

Civil law is made up of written, specific laws. Common law, however, uses past court decisions for guidance. This makes its application less uniform across different areas.

What is a common law marriage?

It’s a legal status for couples living as if they’re married but not officially married. While not every state recognizes it in the US, some do. They have laws that acknowledge this kind of marriage.

What are the benefits of common law rights?

Common law partners get many of the same rights as married couples. These include protection in areas like health care and inheritance. They also have rights over property and children if they separate.

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