Ending a Common Law Marriage in South Carolina

Ending a Common Law Marriage in South Carolina

A lot of people misunderstand “common law” marriage, mistaking it for cohabitation. Only eight states still honor and permit these old-fashioned common law marriage unions, and five others recognize them if entered into by a certain date. South Carolina remains one of the states that does permit common law marriage. However, it’s not as easy as just living together; there are additional formalities required in order to make the marriage legal. And there are also rules surrounding ending a common law marriage that you should know.

Formal Requirements Of Common Law Marriage In South Carolina

In order to be married in South Carolina, you must meet certain requirements:

  • Cannot marry a relative
  • Must be of the legal age of consent
  • Must be of sound mind and capable of understanding your actions
  • Either a license or court approval of a common law marriage must be granted

Petitioning A Court For Common Law Marriage

In order to be deemed married in South Carolina, you must prove to a family court judge that you have sufficiently held yourselves out to be married. The judge can take evidence into account, such as joint tax returns, joint bank accounts, shared real estate, co-habitation, use of spouse’s last name and use of the term, “spouse, wife, or husband” on official documents.

If approved, the court will enter an order approving the marriage. In most situations, it is actually less expensive and simpler to get married through the traditional route than through common law.

Getting Divorced After Common Law Marriage

The process of ending a common law marriage must be handled carefully to ensure that your rights are protected. Since both a traditional and common law marriage will be honored for all purposes in South Carolina, both will also require a divorce in order to sever the legal ties. Sadly, there is no “common law” divorce. Separating or changing your name on documents will not end your marriage. However, before you begin the process of petitioning a court for dissolution of marriage, you should meet with an experienced Mount Pleasant family law attorney who can review your situation carefully to determine if your common law marriage is actually in effect or not. If not, then a divorce may not even be required.

What If We Were Never Really Married?

If your common law marriage was never memorialized in court, you may not need to divorce. Nevertheless, if you have shared a home, have joint accounts, and have been living together for many years, there may be certain complex legal issues that apply to dividing your assets.

Attorneys Rhett and Suzanne Klok take pride in working with their clients to resolve complex legal issues for families throughout the Mount Pleasant area. Whether ending a common law marriage, getting divorced, petitioning the court for child support modification, disputing unjust alimony, fighting for fair visitation, or a difficult property distribution case, you need knowledgeable and caring representation. To speak with a member of the team at Klok Law Firm LLC, contact our office today.


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