When most people think of marriage, a wedding ceremony comes to mind. You first get a marriage license and then have some type of service performed. Witnesses are there to celebrate your love and afterwards you are legally married. However, this is not the only way for a person to be “married.” There is such a thing as a common law marriage.
In basic terms, a common law marriage means that the marriage was established without a license or ceremony. This concept was first created in order for children of such unions to be considered legitimate. In order for a couple to show that they are in a common law marriage, the following must be met:
- Cohabitation: The parties must live together, but there is no defined time requirement for living together
- Intent: The parties must have intended to be married and held themselves out as husband and wife
- Holding out: The parties must present themselves to the public as a married couple. For example, referring to each other as “husband” and “wife” or filing a joint tax return.
- Single: Neither party can be married to someone else
If all of these requirements are met, then congratulations! You are in a common law marriage under the rules of Georgia. Do not get too excited just yet. Georgia does not recognize common law marriages that were entered into after January 1, 1997. The common law marriage must have been entered into prior to this date in Georgia, in order for it to be valid and recognized. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, Georgia must recognize as legal marriages made effective in another state under that state’s laws even though the marriage would not be otherwise legal under its own laws. Thus, if you have a common law marriage that meets the requirements of another state’s laws, Georgia will honor this as a common law marriage, as well. As of January 1, 2000, the states that recognize common law marriages are Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, District of Columbia, and New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only).
What happens if you have a common law marriage and you decide you want to split up? Well, just like any other marriage, you and your spouse would need to go through a divorce proceeding in order to end the marriage. The proceeding will follow the same as a marriage that was entered into through a license and ceremony. Furthermore, the rules that govern division of assets as well as child custody and support, will be no different.
If you and your partner have further questions are common law marriage please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. We can help you better understand this concept in order for you to decide if this is a possible option for you and your partner. Conversely, if you a dissolving a common law marriage, our attorneys will work to ensure that you are adequately represented.