WHAT IS A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
Generally speaking, a common law marriage is a marriage that was established without the benefit of a marriage license and ceremony.
HOW ARE COMMON LAW MARRIAGES ESTABLISHED?
How common law marriages are established varies from state to state. However, the common features of common law marriage include: the parties cohabitate or live together, the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife (like referring to themselves as husband and wife), and neither party was married to someone else during the term of the cohabitation. Typically, all of these factors must be present at the same time to establish a common law marriage. Additionally, some states require the parties to cohabitate for a certain number of years before a common law marriage will be recognized.
ARE COMMON LAW MARRIAGES LEGAL IN GEORGIA?
Common law marriages are no longer recognized in Georgia. But, if the common law marriage was established in Georgia before January 1, 1997, or if the common law marriage was lawfully established in a state that still recognizes common law marriages, Georgia will recognize that marriage. O.C.G.A. §19-3-1.1. There are still a few states that recognize common law marriage. Thus, if you are living is a state other than Georgia and feel that you have established a common law marriage, seek the advice of a family law attorney certified to practice in your state.
IF I AM IN A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE, MUST I OBTAIN A DIVORCE?
Yes, once a valid common law marriage is established, the marriage may only be ended by a valid divorce decree.