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Does Georgia Recognize Common Law Marriages Consummated in Other States?

Although Georgia stopped recognizing common law marriages entered into within the state as of January 1, 1997, there is still some question as to whether Georgia Courts will recognize common lawmarriages legally entered into outside the State of Georgia. This is a topic of concern for individuals who are married, via the common law, and move to this state, because Georgia’s recognition,or lack thereof, could have a major impact on their rights if they ever seek a divorce.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-3-1.1, “No common-law marriage shall be entered into in this state on or after January 1, 1997. Otherwise valid common-law marriages entered into prior to January 1, 1997, shall not be affected by this Code section and shall continue to be recognized in this state.”Thus, no common law marriage entered into in the state of Georgia on or after January 1, 1997 will be recognized with in the state. Only marriages entered into prior to this date still enjoy recognition. But, seeing that there are still some states with in the United States that continue to recognize Common law marriages, many couples who are married by the common law may wonder: “If we move to Georgia, will our marriage be recognized?” To answer this question, a look at Georgia’s case law on the subject will be helpful.

Case law on this matter seems to point to the conclusion that Georgia will indeed recognize common law marriages entered into outside of the state, despite the abolition of common law marriage within the state. According to the Supreme Court of Georgia, “Georgia, like other states not generally recognizing common law marriages, will recognize as valid a common law marriage established under the laws of another state.” Norman v. Ault, 287 Ga. 324, 326 (2010). Although this case seems to neatly answer the question of whether Georgia will recognize an out of state common law marriage, the Georgia case law on this specific issue is sparse. Therefore, if you have questions regarding the validity of your common law marriage, or if you are currently seeking to legally terminate your common law marriage via a divorce, the highly experienced team of family law attorneys at Meriwether & Tharp, LLC would be glad to assist you.

By A. Latrese Martin, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

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