We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Common Law?

By Venus D.
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Common law is a legal system that is largely formed by the decisions previously made by courts and not imposed by legislatures or other government officials. The reasoning used to interpret this type of law is known as casuistry, or case-based reasoning. It is a strict, principle-based reasoning that uses the circumstances of a case to evaluate the laws that are applicable. Decisions that were made about similar cases are valuable, and the case in question is evaluated on the basis of past cases. The strength of the similarity among the cases, in turn, strengthens the reasoning based on them.

The term "common law" also underlines the fact that this type of law did not originate from equity, maritime and other special branches of law. Statutes serve as brief explanations of law and therefore are not very explanatory. Codification is the process by which a statute is passed, expressed within a single document, so that it is understood within existing law rather than creating the need for new laws.

Varies by Jurisdiction

In most cases, common law applies only within that jurisdiction. Judges often create common law by writing opinions about cases that bind lower courts in that jurisdiction. The foundation for this type of law is formed by torts, property and contracts.

English Legal System

In another sense, common law is the basis of the legal system in England and many other English-speaking countries, especially those that were former British colonies, including most of Canada, most of the United States, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Common law was invented in England by three courts — King's Bench, Exchequer and the Court of Common Pleas — to establish a system of law that could supersede the judgments of local courts. Also, in terms of its application to civil law, common law was used to compensate people who suffered wrongful civil acts, known as torts.

Not all former British colonies and English-speaking countries have legal systems based on common law. Louisiana, Quebec and South Africa are said to have pluralistic legal systems combining civil, common, customary and religious law. Furthermore, Louisiana and Quebec use French law, and the South African legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law. India uses a mixture of Hindu and English law.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By BHillChic3x3 — On Nov 17, 2012

I have lived with my husband an Army Vet for 16 years. 12 of those years he was an active duty soldier. For the first nine years, I was legally separated from my last husband. I have been married to my current husband for seven years.

Now we are getting divorced because he committed domestic violence against me. I had to flee to Florida where my family is and he is still in Alabama in our house. We bought the house before we got married, but we were living together and I was raising his kids. In the divorce, how will the law count the first nine years because I was contributing money but the house is is his name only? Will I still get Tricare after we are divorced?

By anon212612 — On Sep 08, 2011

I am 18 year old girl and due to family restrictions and torture, I have decided to leave home but my parents are very bad. They will take action against this. They will search for me and make my life and and they can even bribe police. I want to leave my home and seek the help of any organization which can fight against my parents.

By raresteak — On Jul 08, 2010

@ginsberg05- It is important to note that while domestic partnerships can be recognized as legal marriage in those 13 states, most do not recognize same-sex cohabitative relationships as grounds for common-law marriage. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act permits any state to disallow same-sex marriages from another state. This ruling essentially prohibits the federal government from acknowledging any same-sex marriages.

By ginsberg05 — On Jul 08, 2010

Common-law (de facto) marriage is the state of a domestic partnership that occurs long enough to obtain a legal marriage status. Common-law marriage, in its recognized jurisdictions, does not require a civil or marriage ceremony of any kind. Cohabitation alone does not secure the status of common-law marriage.

In order to be considered "common-law married" by the 13 U.S. states that recognize it, both parties must consent to the "marriage," be of legal age to wed, and be completely qualified to enter into a marriage (this includes being of sound mind, being unmarried, etc.). The 13 states that honor common-law marriage are Alabama, Georgia, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

By anon71101 — On Mar 17, 2010

i am living in chawl system house along with 70 other tenants with ownership and we are paying assessment/ room tax to mahanagarpalika for the last four years. Now the landlord is saying i am the landlord. what can i do?

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.