Common law marriage

Common law marriage is a legal framework that allows a couple to be recognized as married from a legal perspective, even though they lack a marriage license from their respective state. While the concept has faded in recent years, with various states enacting statutes not recognizing common-law marriage, there are states in which it is still recognized, as long as certain requirements are met.

Does Florida permit common-law marriage?

In Florida, the concept of common-law marriage is not recognized. Pursuant to Section 741.211 of the Florida Statutes, “no common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, shall be valid.”  In order to be a married couple for legal purposes, a marriage certificate must be obtained from any county’s Clerk of Court office. However, Florida does recognize common-law marriage under two exceptions. First, if a couple was in a common-law marriage prior to January 1, 1968, it remains recognized by the state. Second, if a couple is in a common-law marriage in one of the few states that still recognizes the concept, then Florida will recognize the marriage as well. 

Which states recognize common-law marriage?

As of 2021, there are seven states which still recognize common-law marriage. They are:
Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, and Utah. Washington, D.C. also recognizes common-law marriage. Importantly, each state has a different set of criteria that must be met before a relationship is recognized as a common-law marriage. Nevertheless, some of the usual requirements include the capacity to marry, mutual agreement by the parties of their marriage, and cohabitation. Some states, such as Montana, have “public repute” as an additional condition. This means that both individuals have made it clear to the general public that they are married to each other. 

Are you legally married after living together for seven years?

A general misconception is that if a couple cohabitates for a certain period, normally three to seven years, a common-law marriage is established. However, this is only the case in one state, New Hampshire, and under specific circumstances.  New Hampshire requires couples to have lived together for three before one of them passed away in order to recognize a common-law marriage. The death factor is included because New Hampshire only recognizes common-law marriage for inheritance purposes. 

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Eric P. Gros-Dubois founded EPGD Business Law in 2013 and is the current head of the firm’s corporate, estate planning, and tax practice, and manages the firm’s Washington D.C. office. With a JD and MBA, and a specialization in finance, Eric is able to step back and view the legal world through a commercial lens while also acting as a trusted business advisor for his clients. He does his best to be solutions oriented, and tries to think like a business owner, not just a lawyer.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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