Elements of a Common Law Marriage

Many people have trouble understanding the laws and regulations that separate marriage, cohabitation, and common law marriages. For instance, a common myth is that a couple automatically enters a common law marriage by living together for a predetermined amount of time. While some states still recognize common law marriages, Florida isn’t one of them. In fact, according to Section 741.211 of the 2016 Florida Statutes, “no common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1068 shall be valid.”

Of course, there is an exception to this policy: Florida law will recognize your common law relationship so long as you were common law married in one of the 10 states that still permits this practice.

The following states recognize common law marriages:

  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Utah
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Florida also recognizes common law marriages from these states:

  • Ohio – if created before October 10, 1991
  • Idaho – if created before January 1, 1996
  • Georgia – if created before January 1, 1997
  • Pennsylvania – if created before January 1, 2005
  • Alabama – if created before January 1, 2017

Every state has unique and ambiguous laws regarding common law marriages. Plus, even the states that recognize these relationships don’t have a set time limit for cohabitation; if anything, it’s a guestimate between 7-10 years. This means that judges must weigh each and every partnership on a case-by-case basis. For example, a couple must openly exist in their community as a married couple (minus the license), refer to each other as “husband” and “wife,” and file joint tax returns each year. Roommates can’t qualify as common law partners because they lack this intimate relationship dynamic.

The Downsides of a Common Law Marriage

The greatest drawback of participating in a common law marriage is that there is no official record that your “marriage” ever existed. This means that you could face numerous legal and financial hardships if you choose to separate from your partner. For example, there is no set process for dividing assets or establishing financial support options.  In a worst-case scenario, you may find yourself destitute and with no hope of legal recourse.

The only solution to this predicament is to make your marriage legally binding by requesting a Florida marriage license. This license will grant you important legal benefits, including: the power to make medical and financial decisions for your incapacitated spouse, the ability to participate in a formal divorce proceeding, and the right to inherit property as a spouse.

Have Questions? Are You Planning to Separate from Your Spouse? Call Today.

If you have concerns about your legal rights or are anxious about protecting your interests during divorce, contact the New Port Richey common law marriage lawyer at Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office. We can evaluate your situation, explain your legal options, and help you safeguard your quality of life.

Contact Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office at (727) 312-1112 to schedule a consultation.


Choose the Most Qualified Attorney
for Your Family Law Case.

    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
      Please enter your phone number.
    • This isn't a valid email address.
      Please enter your email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.
Contact Attorney Bernstein Today