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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Common Law Marriage

With cohabitation before marriage becoming much more common, the topic of common law marriage is becoming more relevant. What is common law marriage, where is it recognized, and what are its implications? While Florida does not recognize common law marriage, it does recognize common law marriages that took place in other states that do have common law marriage. Take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about common law marriage below.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is a marriage in which a couple, fitting certain qualifications and behaving as a couple for a long period of time, are considered legally married, even if there was no marriage license or marriage ceremony.

Does Common Law Marriage Exist Everywhere?

No. Florida does not recognize common law marriage, however, Florida does recognize common law marriages that took place in other states that do have common law marriage. Only some states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, and a few others recognize common law marriage fully. An even shorter list of states, including Georgia, Oklahoma, and a few others recognize common law marriages for couples that became married under common law before the ban on common law marriages was enacted in those states.

What are the Requirements for Common Law Marriage?

Requirements for common law marriages vary by states that recognize them. However, a few basic elements are the same in all states recognizing common law marriage: both spouses must live together (generally for a set number of years prescribed by law), both spouses must have the legal right to marry (sometimes referred to as “capacity to marry”), meaning that both parties are of marriageable age, of sound mind, and not married to someone else, both spouses must intend to be married, and both spouses must hold themselves out to friends and family as being a married couple in some way. For instance, spouses in a common law marriage would generally take one another’s last name, refer to their partners as their husband or wife, hold joint accounts, etc.

Does a Common Law Marriage End if We Split Up?

No. Once common law marriage is established in the state that recognizes it, the common law marriage remains valid and binding like traditional marriage would be, and lasts until one spouse dies or until divorce. This is true even if the spouses had a common law marriage in another state and relocated to Florida. If someone is married under a common law marriage, he or she cannot marry someone else without divorcing his or her common law spouse first.

While Florida does not recognize common law marriage, you may still be in one if you previously were in a common law marriage and have since moved to Florida from another state, and your rights and interests may still be tied to your common law spouse’s. If you have questions about common law marriage or how it may affect you, our Boca Raton family law attorneys at Schwartz | White can assist you. Call 561-391-9943 today to schedule a consultation.

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