Are common law marriages legally recognized in Florida? The simple answer is “sometimes.” Florida Statute 741.211 abolished all common law marriages in the State of Florida which were entered into after January 1, 1968. Common law marriages entered into prior to that date are still considered valid. Florida residents who entered into a common law marriage before 1968 must obtain a Dissolution of Marriage from a Florida court if they want to be divorced. The parties may petition the court for alimony and a division of marital assets and debts just as individuals who have been licensed by the state. Their marriages are also legally recognized for probate purposes.
When is Common Law Marriage Post-1968 Recognized in Florida?
As is the case with most legal matters, there are exceptions. Florida recognizes common law marriages entered into in other states that recognize such unions. Individuals married in other states or foreign jurisdictions that legally recognize common law marriages, and who subsequently move to Florida, will have their marriages recognized in this state. These individuals can also petition a Florida court for a divorce, just as can couples who are married legally in Florida. Their marriages are also valid for inheritance purposes. The reasoning behind this legal recognition is to avoid the undesirable result of turning legal marriages into adulterous relationships and placing the children of such marriages into illegitimate status.
Which States Allow Common Law Marriage?
The states that acknowledge common law marriages are:
- District of Columbia
- Georgia (if entered into before January 1, 1997)
- Idaho (if entered into before January 1, 1968)
- New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes)
- Ohio (if entered into prior to October 10, 1991)
- Pennsylvania (if entered into prior to January 1, 2005)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Several states abolished common law marriages so long ago that they are usually not mentioned. Besides Florida, these states are Mississippi (before April 6, 1956); Michigan (before January 1, 1957); Indiana (before January 2, 1958); and South Dakota (before July 1, 1959).
Florida does not yet recognize every marriage entered into in another state. Florida Statute 741.212 explicitly rejects homosexual marriage regardless of what jurisdiction it was entered into. The constitutionality of this statute is still being deliberated in the state and federal courts in Florida. On October 13, 2014, Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the state Supreme Court to hear two gay marriage cases from south Florida.
Alternatives to Legal Marriage in Florida
Currently, there is no statewide recognition of domestic partnerships in Florida. However, several counties and cities in Florida have introduced domestic partner registries with accompanying benefits. In these jurisdictions, couples can obtain some of the legal benefits associated with marriage. Consult a marriage law attorney if you have questions regarding the laws of your local jurisdiction.
Finally, some businesses provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. Each business is free to establish its own requirements for recognition of a domestic partnership and the benefits that are conferred upon such relationships.
Laws governing marriage are by no means static. If you have any questions about marriage in the State of Florida, it would be wise to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable Palm Beach Marriage Lawyer. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. represent family law clients in various cities within Palm Beach County, including West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, and Boca Raton. In addition, we assist family law clients who reside in Broward, Hendry, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie Counties. Please call us at 561-429-3924 to schedule a consultation.