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Bureau of Pensions – Legal Opinion

Department of the Interior,

Bureau of Pensions,

Washington, D.C., December 8, 1894

Claims of
Ellen Duff, No. 402,098,
Catharine A. Duff, No. 521,233,
as widows of
Christopher Duff,
Musc. 7th U. S. Inf.

Respectfully returned herewith to the Chief of the Old War and Navy Division is the above mentioned claim with opinion as follows:

The cohabitation and recognition of a man and woman as husband and wife do not constitute a marriage, they are, at best, only circumstances from which a marriage may be presumed. Cohabitation is not an element constituting marriage, but a circumstance considered in the proof of the marriage. If the cohabitation of the parties is consequent upon a void marriage contract, there is no presumption of a new marriage contract merely from the continuation of the cohabitation after the removal of the legal impediment

which made the former marriage contract void, and if there are no circumstances pointing toward a new marriage contract there is no proof of a valid marriage.

J O'O Roberts
Chief Law Division.