Common law marriage in Alabama?

UPDATED: May 7, 2009

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Common law marriage in Alabama?

Trying to help an elderly disabled neighbor: He lived with woman 20+ yrs ,she passed away and her family is trying to take home that was in her name. He said a judge on 7th floor {mobile county}told him he needed an attorney. I told him I would try and help but dont know his options as he has very little money.They were not married but maybe AL. common law marriage gives him some rights?Any help would be appreciated as he has nowhere else to go. Thank you, R.D.

Asked on May 7, 2009 under Estate Planning, Alabama


R.C., Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

Common Law Marriage

If a man and a woman intend to be married, they may be married even if they never said “I do.” The test in Alabama is the intent of the parties. No ceremony and no particular words are necessary to constitute a valid common-law marriage. Specifically, the elements required for a common law marriage are (a) capacity (both spouses must be at least 14 and mentally competent); (b) present agreement or mutual consent to enter into the marriage relationship; (c) public recognition of the existence of the marriage (calling each other "my husband" and "my wife"); and (d) cohabitation or mutual assumption openly of marital duties and obligations."[2]

   The Alabama attorney general defines a common law marriage this way: To constitute a valid common-law marriage, there must be mutual consent between the parties to be husband and wife, followed by cohabitation and living together as man and wife.  Alabama doesn’t recognize trial marriages. As the court in one case put it, “marriage, common-law or ceremonial, is not transitory, ephemeral, or conditional, but contemplates a present, permanent status.

   Maybe this describes this man and the deceased's relationship.  Did they consider themselves married after twenty years?   Many couples do consider their relationship as a marriage after that many years.   In any case, this relationship should be brought up in court, and if this pair did consider themselves married, the man should say that he was married, in common law, to the deceased woman and that the house therefore belongs to him.  

   If he can afford any kind of a lawyer, it would be very useful for him.  I'm assuming you are not a lawyer. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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