I want to know what constitutes a common law marriage?

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I want to know what constitutes a common law marriage?

My girlfriend who I used to live with, told me that I had to move out because she was worried about losing her alimony because her ex-husband could say we were married. I told her, just because we live together, doesn’t make it common law in SC. She said her lawyer told her something different. I say he/she is full of it.

Asked on November 26, 2010 under Family Law, South Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

SC is only one of a handful of states that still recognizes a common law marriage.  A common law marriage can be established simply by the intent of each party to be married to the other and a mutual understanding between the parties of their intent to be married.  However, you can find yourself married even if you had no intention of being married.  There is no set list of factors determining if such a marriage exists.  The court will look to the circumstances surrounding the relationship in order to make its decision as to whether or not a common law marriage existed. Instead, the court looks at all the factors surrounding the relationship.

When you were together did you avoid any indication of being a married couple? For example, did you use the same last names, introduce each other as man and wife, enter into contracts as husband and wife, or file joint tax returns? One common misconception is that the parties have to live together for 7 years. That is absolutely untrue. A common law marriage can be found to have existed in fat less time than that.

A family law attorney in your area can assist you if you have questions about whether you are or have been common law married. The attorney can review the facts of your case and advise you on your rights under state law.


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