What’s the Deal With Common Law Marriages?

Many have heard of common law marriage, and wonder if simply living with a partner will result in their being married. The short answer is that Florida generally does not recognize common law marriage.

Common law marriage is a way to get married to someone without having a written marital contract or license and without having a formal ceremony.

In those states that recognize the rule, there are typically three major requirements:

  • An exchange of consent between competent parties – This means that the couple must agree to a permanent exclusive relationship.
  • Cohabitation – This means that the parties must live together.
  • Holding out publicly to others that the partners are husband and wife – This means that the couple must present themselves to other people as though they were married. This could include such things as calling a partner a “husband” or “wife,” or taking on the same last names.

All of these requirements must be satisfied to have a common law marriage. Thus simply living together would not be enough.

Today, very few states recognize common law marriages. Florida used to recognize them, however, in 1968 they were abolished. So even if you satisfy all of the above elements while living in Florida, you will not be legally married.

There are two major situations in which Florida will still recognize a common law marriage. Namely, those include situations where the parties validly entered into a common law marriage in a state that still recognizes common law marriage, or situations when the parties satisfied the requirements of common law marriage prior to 1968.

If you think that you have met the elements, and think that there may be some implications regarding your situation, you should speak with a family law attorney.

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