While most couples prefer to have a ceremonial wedding as part of getting married, not all couples have to have a ceremony to become married in South Carolina. Under South Carolina law, a couple can become common law married, even if they never partake in a marriage ceremony. Both forms of getting married are equally valid; they are just two different paths to the same end result. Couples married through common law marriage enjoy the same rights as those couples who have a ceremonial marriage. So in addition to enjoying the benefits of marriage, common law married couples can also seek divorces, alimony, child custody and child support.
Common law marriage is more than just a couple living together for a specific period of time. Common law marriage requires that the couple have the intent to be married and the ability to be married. Because common law marriage is legally the same as ceremonial marriage, common law married couples must seek a divorce if the couple chooses to split up and must take the same steps to obtain a divorce as ceremonially married couples would.
Intent To Marry
In order to have a common law marriage in the first place, the couple must outwardly portray that the couple regards themselves as spouses. They must have a present intent to be married, meaning that they want to be married to one another, consider themselves to be married, and do not have plans to become married at some point later in time. Without this intention to be a married couple, cohabiting people of the opposite sex are simply roommates or housemates, rather than married spouses.
Ability to Marry
A couple cannot become common law married if one or both of the to-be-spouses has some sort of prohibition or impediment that stops him or her from becoming married. There are a number of impediments to the common law marriage of cohabiting people. For example:
- One or both of the individuals is/are too young to legally marry;
- The couple is too closely related; or
- One or both of the individuals is/are already married to another person.
Proving Common Law Marriage Is Factually Complex
Proving a common law marriage exists can sometimes be difficult to do since it is highly fact based. To prove a common law marriage existed between the couple, there must be proof that:
- The couple cohabitated together for a period of time.
- During cohabitation, both parties of the couple outwardly conveyed that they were married to one another. To think of this another way, the couple must have a reputation as being married to one another.
- Neither spouse can have an impediment to marriage.
Common law marriage can also be proven if the couple acts like they are married. For example, sharing the same last name, filing joint tax returns as a married couple, indicating that the other is his or her spouse on official paperwork (insurance policies, bank accounts, co-signer, etc.), buying property jointly, are all outward demonstrations by the couple made to the public that they perceive themselves as married spouses.
Contacting A South Carolina Divorce Lawyer
Common law marriage has the same legal consequences as ceremonial marriage. With that said, getting a divorce from a common law marriage usually requires the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney since proving the marriage exists can be challenging. The professionals at Sarji Law Firm, LLC have worked with many clients who were married through a common law marriage and then later sought help getting divorced. If you need help with your divorce, please call us today at 843-323-4341.