What is a common-law marriage in Georgia?
In this article, you’ll learn:
Let’s dig in.
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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:
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A common law marriage in Georgia is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not:
A common law marriage occurs when a couple:
Simply living together is not enough to have a common-law marriage in Georgia.
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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.
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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.
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We discuss the Georgia common law marriage requirements more in-depth below.
But the four Georgia common law marriage requirements are that you must:
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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.
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.
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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:
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.
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.
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.
How do you hold yourself out as a married couple?
This means that you and your significant other are:
Basically, you’re acting as if you are married.
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.
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.
The divorce courts will want to make sure that:
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:
It is important to prove a common-law marriage when:
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.
But a spouse will have to prove the common law marriage if they:
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:
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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:
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.
A common law marriage is a marriage where the couple:
A common law marriage is an informal marriage.
It’s legally considered being married without ever getting a marriage license.
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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.
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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:
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.
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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:
You have to prove to the courts that there was a common-law marriage.
And then you can go through the Georgia divorce process.
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