Common law marriage is a term that is used to describe a relationship that has existed for a significant period of time, during which a couple lives together and holds themselves out as man and wife. However, the couple has never legally married with a marriage license and ceremony.
There are only a handful of states whose laws recognize common law marriage. None of the laws in these states establish exactly how long a couple must be together in order to constitute a common law marriage. However, it is clear that the couple must live together as husband and wife for a rather lengthy period of time. While the other requirements for a common law marriage vary from one state to the next, they generally require that each spouse not be married to anyone else. It is also required that the couple hold themselves out as husband and wife, either by referring to one another as “husband” and “wife,” filing joint tax returns, and/or using the same last name.
Current Georgia law does not recognize common law marriage. However, O.C.G.A. § 19-3-1.1 does recognize common law marriages that were legal in other states, as well as common law marriages that were established in Georgia prior to January 1, 1997. If a common law marriage from another state does exist, then it can only be dissolved through a formal divorce. All of the issues that are involved in a regular divorce also are involved in a divorce stemming from a common law marriage. These issues might include child custody, visitation, property division, and alimony, among others.
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Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.