You probably have heard about common law marriage. You probably have a vague idea what it means. But, is it a real marriage? The answer depends on: (1) where you are now; (2) where you were when the common law marriage started; and (3) whether you did the things required by state law. State law of which state? Well, that depends too.
The first thing you need to know is that common law marriages cannot be created in North Carolina. However, North Carolina will recognize a common law marriage created in another state if that state recognizes common law marriages and you fulfilled the requirements for a common law marriage.
For instance, under Texas law, a common-law marriage consists of three elements: (1) agreement of the parties to be married; (2) living together in Texas as husband and wife; and (3) representing to others that they are married. If that Texas couple then moved to North Carolina, this State would recognize their common law marriage.
Only a few states recognize common law marriages, and each has specific stipulations as to what relationships are included:
- District of Columbia
- Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
- Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
- New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
- Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
- Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma’s laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
- Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Even if North Carolina recognizes a common law marriage, there is no common law divorce. One potential problem with a common law marriage is pinpointing the date the marriage started. Typically, that date is far less certain than with a traditional marriage. And that issue could create thorny questions should the marriage result in a divorce. A common law marriage may seem attractive to those wanting to avoid the pomp and circumstance of a traditional marriage. However, you need to know whether your marriage will be recognized and what will happen should the marriage end.
If you have questions about common law marriage or other areas of North Carolina family, contact Irvine Law Firm.