Many couples today wish to live together and act as a married couple, even though they have never obtained a marriage license or had an official wedding ceremony. This is known as a common law marriage. Sometimes, the couple involved even refer to each other as husband and wife. If you are currently living in this type of situation, it is important to understand what Florida law says about common law marriages. Without taking the right steps, you could be giving up some important rights.
What Do the Florida Statutes Say About Common Law Marriages?
A handful of states recognize common law marriages as an official marriage, affording each partner in the common law relationship the same rights as a married couple. Unfortunately, Florida is not one of these states. According to the Florida Statutes, Section 741.211, the Sunshine State will not recognize any common law marriage that was entered into after January 1, 1968.
Until that date, common law marriage in Florida was legal and so, the state will still recognize these relationships just as other marriages are recognized. Any common law relationship that was entered into after January 1, 1968 is not recognized by the state. However, there is an exception to the law.
The Exception to the Statute on Common Law Marriages
Although the Florida Statutes are quite clear about the law on common law marriage, there is an exception in which a common law marriage will still be recognized.
The exception is when a couple entered into a common law marriage in one of the handful of states that still recognizes these relationships. Currently, ten states and the District of Columbia still recognize common law marriages as a legal relationship. Likewise, when a couple enters into a common law marriage in Florida prior to 1968 and then moves to another state, that state will also recognize their legal common law relationship.
The Importance of Making it Official
Of course, couples have the right to live however they choose in Florida. Couples that want the same legal rights as a married couple should make it official with a wedding ceremony and a marriage license.
Without taking these steps, couples cannot make decisions for an incapacitated spouse, and they also cannot have formal divorce proceedings if they break up. These proceedings are important because a person may give up several rights if they choose to dissolve the relationship. For example, in a divorce, each spouse is entitled to a portion of any property that was acquired during the marriage under Florida’s equitable distribution statute. Without an official marriage, each partner in a common law marriage relinquishes these rights.
Additionally, if the couple has children together and they are not married, the father is not automatically assumed to be the biological parent. However, when the couple is married, the father is considered the biological parent of the child and there is no need to establish paternity, which can make issues such as timesharing and parental responsibility much clearer.
Our Florida Family Lawyers can Advise on Your Options
If you are in a common law marriage, it is important to speak to an Orlando family lawyer that can help protect your rights. Even if you do not wish to get married, you can draft a cohabitation agreement that will outline your rights and obligations in case the relationship dissolves. At O’Mara Law Group, our attorneys can help you draft this important document to ensure that it is enforceable and that your rights are protected. Call us today at (407) 634-6604 or contact us online to get the legal help you need today.