Common Law Marriage in South Carolina

Common Law Marriage in South Carolina

South Carolina is one of a handful of states that still recognizes common law marriage. Common law marriage refers to a union in which the couple lives as though they are married, even though they never had a formal wedding or marriage license. It is an old-fashioned concept that originated when limited transportation made it difficult for poor, rural couples to obtain a marriage license and have a ceremony. Although most states no longer validate unions formed in their jurisdiction as a common law marriage, they still recognize common law marriage in South Carolina and other states that still allow them.

What Constitutes A Common Law Marriage In South Carolina?

Despite the persistent myth that a couple automatically becomes “common law married” after cohabitating for seven years, there is no required length of time that must be spent together to obtain a common law marriage in South Carolina. It is only important that the couple considers themselves married and lives publicly as a married couple. Besides cohabitating and having children together, some ways a couple can act as married partners include:

  • Telling others you are married, or introducing your partner as your “husband” or “wife”
  • Using the same last name
  • Sharing a bank account
  • Filing a joint tax return
  • Buying a house or making other large purchases together
  • Entering into contracts together (like a mortgage or rental agreement)

A judge will decide if a common law marriage exists by determining if there is mutual intent and agreement between two individuals to live as husband and wife. Both parties must be legally eligible to get married, meaning they are of legal age, possess the mental capacity to marry, and are not already married to someone else.

There Is No Common Law Divorce In South Carolina.

There is no formal process required to create a common law marriage in South Carolina, but once established, the marriage cannot be dissolved so easily. A common law marriage carries all the weight, rights, and responsibilities of an official marriage. To legally dissolve the marriage, the couple must go through formal divorce proceedings.

Those in a common law marriage seeking a divorce in South Carolina must meet state residency and separation requirements. During the divorce proceedings, the judge will determine the division of marital property and debts, child custody arrangements, and child support orders. A court may also award spousal support (alimony) payments if appropriate. Parties are encouraged to reach a mutual agreement on their own if possible.

Divorce Lawyers In Mt. Pleasant, SC

If you are ending a serious, long-term relationship that might be considered a common law marriage in South Carolina, it is important to consult with a divorce attorney right away. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can help you determine the best course of action to move on with your life as quickly and smoothly as possible. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC can assist you with your divorce, child custody, domestic support, or other family law matter every step of the way.

Contact our office in Mt. Pleasant, SC to schedule a consultation.