Common Law Marriage in Georgia

Common Law Marriage Georgia - Does Georgia Have Common Law Marriage - Does Georgia Recognize Common Law Marriage - Is there common law marriage in Georgia

What is a common-law marriage in Georgia?

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • how to prove common law marriage in Georgia
  • what is common law marriage
  • does Georgia recognize common law marriage
  • how to get a common law marriage divorce

Let’s dig in.

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Common Law Marriage Georgia

Some people used to choose to get a common law marriage in Georgia for a variety of reasons. 

Common-law marriage in Georgia is the equivalent of getting married. 

Without ever having a marriage ceremony or marriage license

There are some criteria that a couple has to meet for Georgia common-law marriages.

For their relationship to be considered common law marriage, they must:

  • live together
  • have the legal right to marry
  • intend to marry
  • hold themselves out as a married couple
  • be of sound mind
  • not be married to someone else

Related: Divorce Laws in Georgia

What Is Common Law Marriage In Georgia?

A common law marriage in Georgia is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not:

  • purchased a marriage license
  • had their marriage officiated by a ceremony

A common law marriage occurs when a couple:

  • lives together for a period of time
  • presents themselves as “married” to their friends, family, and community
  • never have a formal ceremony or obtain a marriage certificate

Simply living together is not enough to have a common-law marriage in Georgia.

Related: Dissolution vs Divorce

How Long Is Common Law Marriage In Georgia?

How long is common law marriage in Georgia is irrelevant. 

Georgia does not have a specific timeline that you have to be together for common law marriage. 

Most people believe that you have to be together for 7 years for common law marriage. 

But this is not true in Georgia. 

Georgia does not have a required timeline to qualify for common law marriage. 

Related: How Long Does A Divorce Take

Is Common Law Marriage Legal In Georgia?

Common-law marriage is no longer legal in Georgia. 

The common-law marriage ended in Georgia on January 1, 1997. 

Any relationships entered into after 1996 are not legally common law marriage in Georgia. 

Related: Legal Reasons for Divorce

Georgia Common Law Marriage Requirements

We discuss the Georgia common law marriage requirements more in-depth below. 

But the four Georgia common law marriage requirements are that you must:

  • live together
  • have the capacity to marry
  • have intended to marry
  • hold yourself out as a married couple

Related: How Long Do You Have To Pay Alimony

When Did Common Law Marriage End In Georgia?

Common law marriage ended in Georgia on January 1, 1997. 

According 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.”

Any common law marriages in Georgia after this date will not be recognized. 

Your marriage must have been entered into BEFORE January 1st, 1997.

Related: How Long Does A Divorce Take In Georgia

Is Georgia A Common Law State?

Georgia is not a common state anymore. 

Georgia was a common law state in the past. 

But common law marriage in Georgia ended on January 1st, 1997. 

Before January 1st, 1997, Georgia was a common-law state. 

Georgia will still recognize common law marriages that were initiated prior to 1997.

Related: Penalty For Hiding Assets In Divorce

Does Georgia Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Yes, Georgia does recognize common law marriage.

But only if you met the Georgia common law marriage requirements BEFORE the new law went into effect in 1997.

But what if you’re moving to Georgia from another state and want your common law marriage to be recognized?

Common law marriage is still recognized in other states within the United States.

Georgia does recognize common-law marriage from other states. 

The Supreme Court of Georgia’s ruling on the issue is as follows:

“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).

So, how does Georgia recognize common-law marriage in its own state?

The four Georgia common law marriage requirements are:

1. You Must Live Together

For common-law marriage in Georgia, you have to have lived together full time. 

You can’t just stay together periodically. 

You can’t have separated in Georgia and moved out of the house a few years ago. 

You have to have lived together for the duration of your common law marriage.

Related: Who Has Custody of a Child When the Parents Are Not Married

2. You Must Have The Capacity To Marry

You have to actually have been able to get married. 

This is referred to as “the capacity to marry.”

This means that both parties have the mental ability to agree to become spouses. 

Both parties must be 18+ years old. 

And they must be of sound mind when agreeing to the marriage. 

Related: How Long Can A Spouse Drag Out A Divorce

3. Both Parties Must Have Intended To Marry

Both parties must have intended to be married. 

Meaning that one party can’t intend to be married while the other one never did. 

Both parties need to claim that they intended to marry. 

Otherwise, it’s hard to prove that one of the spouses had intentions to marry. 

4. You Must Hold Yourself Out As A Married Couple

How do you hold yourself out as a married couple?

This means that you and your significant other are:

  • using the same last name
  • referring to each other as husband and wife
  • filing joint tax returns
  • holding joint bank accounts
  • using joint credit cards

Basically, you’re acting as if you are married. 

Related: How To Get Full Custody Of A Child Without Going To Court

Is Georgia A Common Law Property State?

No, Georgia is not a common-law property state

In a common-law property state, one spouse can buy a house in their name. 

And they can sell it without the other spouse’s consent

Assets acquired by one spouse are deemed to belong to that spouse.

Unless that property is put in both spouses’ names

Georgia is an equitable distribution state that recognizes marital property. 

Meaning that Georgia is not a common-law property state. 

And the courts will split up assets equitably in the event of a common-law marriage divorce.

Related: If There Is No Custody Order In Place Can I Take My Child

Common Law Marriage Georgia

To be able to get married, both people have to be of ‘sound mind.’

You have to be at least 18 years old.

You cannot be related (to a certain degree).

You cannot be married already (or separated).

In common law, the ‘marriage contract’ is instated when both people present themselves as a married couple.

The common law marriage in Georgia is consummated by two people continuing to live together.

For common law marriage in Georgia, there was no set number of years that two people had to live together.

Related: Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First

How To Prove Common Law Marriage

The divorce courts will want to make sure that:

  • you meet the common law marriage requirements
  • you both presented yourselves to the public as a married couple

Your documentation of common law marriage in Georgia is important. 

Especially if you’re trying to prove it for a common-law marriage divorce.

This could be a written agreement or an affidavit signed by both people.

(You would have had to use this kind of documentation to get on someone’s insurance plan.)

To prove a common law marriage, the court may require a variety of documentation like:

  • Joint tax returns;
  • Records of joint bank accounts;
  • Documentation proving joint ownership of property;
  • A will or other estate document referring to the partner as a spouse;
  • School records naming both parents as spouses; and/or
  • Any document showing one spouse using the surname of the other for themselves.

It is important to prove a common-law marriage when:

  • inheriting property
  • claiming insurance
  • claiming social security benefits
  • getting a divorce

The common law marriage divorce is the same as a normal divorce in Georgia.

You’ll still have to fill out the same divorce papers.

This is true even if you are trying to have an amicable divorce or an uncontested divorce

Related: Georgia Child Support Laws for Non Custodial Parents

But a spouse will have to prove the common law marriage if they:

  • are trying to obtain property rights
  • are trying to get financial support
  • are trying to claim parental rights

This is really important when you are working on a property settlement.

You need to prove that you have rights to the property.

Especially if the property is only in your spouse’s name.

Either party can claim that there was no intention to be married. 

And that it was not a valid common-law marriage. 

If you want the property, you must prove that:

  • both parties intended to be married
  • a common-law marriage existed

Related: Grounds for Full Custody of Child

If this is the case, your spouse probably won’t be signing a Georgia divorce settlement agreement.

This is why you cannot have a common-law marriage in Georgia anymore.

When going through a common-law marriage divorce, you’ll need a Georgia divorce lawyer. 

They know how to prove common law marriage in Georgia. 

And they know how to gather evidence to defend your position. 

Because the divorce laws in Georgia for a common-law marriage are different.

You need to prove that you had common law marriage in Georgia for:

  • getting parental rights
  • gaining child custody
  • getting child support
  • getting alimony
  • splitting assets
  • splitting debts

Let’s say you’re not married, but you have children. 

The father does not have any parental rights. 

And the father does not have custody rights without parental rights. 

But, he also does not owe child support until paternity gets established

This can significantly increase the cost of divorce in Georgia

Your divorce lawyer will need to do a lot more leg work for a common-law marriage divorce. 

Most people want a more affordable divorce.

You should bring all of the documentation proving your divorce to your divorce lawyer.

Additionally, a Georgia divorce attorney can represent you in court as needed.

Related: How a Mother Can Lose a Custody Battle

How Does Common Law Marriage Work?

A common law marriage is a marriage where the couple:

  • lives together for a period of time
  • hold themselves out as married
  • never went through a marriage ceremony
  • never obtained a marriage license

A common law marriage is an informal marriage. 

It’s legally considered being married without ever getting a marriage license. 

Related: How Long Does Alimony Last

Common Law Marriage Acceptance in Georgia

So, if you believe that you are able to be considered married under common law in Georgia, how do you get recognition for this?

If you are trying to prove that you are eligible for common law marriage in Georgia, then it’s up to you to prove that you met the eligibility requirements BEFORE 1997.

This is the only way that your common law marriage will be recognized by the state.

But once your marriage has been accepted as common law, then you have the same legal rights that any other legally married couple has.

This includes the right to a divorce.

Related: Irreconcilable Differences

Common-Law Marriage Divorce

A common law marriage divorce is a little tougher than a normal divorce. 

This is because you have to prove that you had a common-law marriage. 

If you cannot prove that you had one, then you cannot:

  • get child support as a mother
  • get any parental rights as a father
  • get custody or visitation as a father
  • split “marital property”
  • split marital debts
  • get alimony 

These are all issues that are normally handled in the normal divorce process. 

This is why you need an experienced attorney for a common-law marriage divorce

Related: Unmarried Fathers Rights In Georgia

Does Common Law Marriage Require A Divorce?

Yes, a common-law marriage requires a divorce. 

The divorce process will determine how to split up the life that you have built together. 

A common law marriage requires a divorce to figure out:

  • how to split assets
  • how to split debts
  • a child visitation schedule 
  • child custody
  • child support
  • alimony

You have to prove to the courts that there was a common-law marriage. 

And then you can go through the Georgia divorce process

Related: How Far Can A Parent Move With Joint Custody

How To End A Common Law Marriage

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