Some couples might not have had a wedding, but they have been together for so long that it feels like they are married. In some situations, they might refer to each other as husband and wife and might live as a married couple. In some states, this might qualify as a common law marriage, which refers to a marriage that is recognized despite not having a ceremony or signing a marriage license.
Common law marriages can allow unmarried couples to have the same rights and protections as officially married spouses, including access to the divorce process if they split up. However, not every state recognizes common law marriages.
No Common Law Marriage in Florida
Florida changed its laws decades ago to not recognize common law marriages entered into after 1968. This means that even if you have been living like a married couple would for decades, it still would not constitute a common law marriage.
In order to be recognized as legally married in Florida, you must:
- Properly obtain a marriage license from the county, which is valid for 60 days
- Have the marriage solemnized by an authorized party, which includes a judge or religious leader
If you fail to meet one of the above requirements, your marriage is likely not valid. This means you do not have the rights of married spouses, which includes rights to property division, spousal support, and other benefits if the marriage ends in divorce.
Exceptions in Florida
There is an important exception that might allow Florida to recognize a common law marriage. This applies when a couple entered into their common law marriage by meeting the requirements of another state that recognizes common law marriages. The states that currently recognize common law marriages include:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
- District of Columbia
In addition, some states recognize common law marriages entered into before a certain date, like Florida recognizing those that started prior to 1968. These states include:
- Pennsylvania = before 2005
- Alabama = before 2017
- Georgia = before 1997
- Ohio = before 1991
Each state has its own rules and requirements for a common law marriage to be valid and recognized. If you lived in a state with common law marriage and you met those requirements, your marriage can be recognized as valid if you then move to Florida.
This means that if you break up, one or both spouses can file a petition for divorce. This requires you to meet the legal requirements of divorce in order to lawfully end the common law marriage. These include:
- Dividing all marital property equitably
- Determining whether one spouse owes support to the other
- Resolving child-related matters, including timesharing, parental responsibilities, and child support
Consult with a Brandon Divorce Lawyer About Your Options
There can be complications when marriages begin or end under unique circumstances, such as common law marriage. The Brandon divorce lawyers of Carman & Bevington, P.A., help clients with complex concerns and issues. Contact us online or call 813-305-0631 to learn more.