Florida and Common Law Marriage

Fri, Jun 8, 2012

General Legal Issues, Probate

Florida and Common Law MarriageWe have all heard the rumors that common law marriage exists in Florida. After seven years of being together a couple is married by common law–right? Wrong! Florida does not recognize these types of relationships (for most Florida residents) and has not for many years.

In 1968, Florida created a law against recognizing such relationships (but grandfathered in those couples already recognized as being in a common law marriage). The brief details are in Florida State Statute 741.211. Also, if a couple is seen as being married through common law in other states, and then moves to Florida, their marriage is recognized in Florida.

Many other states still recognize common law marriage. The states that do recognize them have differing rules about what constitutes one. Often this includes things like calling each other husband and wife and living together for a specified length of time.

Common law marriage comes from olden times—way back to the Greeks and Romans. Over time, though, most states stopped recognizing the institution–partly due to the legal problems they can cause. These include issues of probate, divorce, taxation, property ownership, and medical decisions.

Do not confuse common law marriages with relationships that are governed by legal contracts or that are same-sex marriages. Florida does not currently recognize same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships. But some cities (such as Tampa) have established domestic partnership directories that allow these types of relationships to be legally recognized in various scenarios.

Many legal documents can be drawn up to help ease legal concerns that arise in domestic partnerships or common law marriages—documents such as Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogates. SmithLaw handles matters of probate and estate planning and is able to help clients with these types of needs.

Image Credit: vivevans

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