De Facto Marriage Law and Legal Definition

A de facto marriage is a term used for certain couples who live together without being legally married. Recognition of de facto marriages varies by jurisdiction and entity. In some instances, an entity will recognize a de facto marriage, so that a person is eligible for the same rights as a legally married person. Some typical requirements are that a de facto spouse lives under the same roof as the member and that possessions have been pooled for joint use as a common household. It may also be referred to as "common-law union" or "cohabitation."

While the dissolution of a marriage leads to the courts' intervention, there are no formalities for de facto spouses when they separate, if cohabitation is not recognized by civil law. Cohabitants with children must, nonetheless, settle issues of custody and support payments. De facto spouses who are parents are generally subject to the same rules as married parents with regard to parental duties.