Definition of common law in English:

common law

Line breaks: com¦mon law


  • 1 [mass noun] The part of English law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes. Compare with case law, statute law.
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    • Another is the common law, derived from precedent and judges' interpretations of the law.
    • Equity awarded simple interest at a time when courts of law had no right under common law or statute to award any interest.
    • Generally, the system of law in use worldwide can be classified into common law and statute law.
  • 1.1The body of English law as adopted and adapted by the different States of the US. Compare with civil law.
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    • Under the U.S. system, the judiciary is charged with ensuring that the principles embedded in the Constitution, statutes, and common law are honored regardless of what the majority thinks.
    • The ruling is based on the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits false and deceptive advertising, and Missouri common law dealing with unfair competition.
    • Prior to 1970, many states, by statute or common law, dictated that fathers had a right to have their children bear their surnames.
  • 2 [as modifier] Denoting a partner in a marriage recognized in some jurisdictions (excluding the UK) as valid by common law, though not brought about by a civil or ecclesiastical ceremony: a common-law husband
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    • Her mother stood next to an open doorway and sobbed yesterday as the undertakers brought down her common-law husband's body.
    • Pension providers were recently asked if they make a point of never providing pensions for common-law partners under any circumstances.
    • The policy permits Iowa State to offer the same insurance credits for domestic partners enrolled in an Iowa State benefits plan as it does for married or common-law partners.
  • 2.1Denoting a partner in a relationship in which a man and woman cohabit for a period long enough to suggest stability.
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    • There is always a feeling of insecurity by the female partner in any common-law relationship.
    • During their 20-year common-law relationship, they lived in Calgary, Portage La Prairie and Ottawa.
    • When a woman in a common-law relationship has a child, her male partner is automatically considered the father, unless she enters another name on the birth certificate.

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