Married couple meeting with family law attorney

Florida Common Law Marriage

Marriage has powerful legal implications. The legal union of two people join their lives in far reaching ways. The legal recognition of this union, for instance, can have significant consequences in the event that the two people party to the union want said union dissolved. The dissolution of a marriage means that the state’s laws regarding asset distribution are likely to come into play. As an equitable distribution state, Florida dictates that a couple’s assets should be fairly divided upon divorce. Furthermore, being legally married can have significant implications regarding estate planning. Being the spouse of a deceased individual can entitle you to certain inheritances, among other things.

All this is to say is that it can be important to understand whether you are in a legally recognized marriage. You may be wondering how someone could think they were married when they weren’t actually so. It may be more common than you realize considering all of the misconceptions there are about common law marriage. A common law marriage is a marriage that becomes legal after a couple lives as spouses for a long enough period of time. But, does Florida recognize common law marriages? We’ll talk more on this here.

Florida Common Law Marriage

In some states, the cohabitation of a couple living as if they were married for a certain period of time means that they have established a legally recognized, common law marriage in that state. While Florida was amongst the states that once recognized the validity of a common law marriage, they no longer exist here as they did at one point. While they are not completely gone from the state, the 2016 Florida state legislature established a law stating that no common law marriage entered into in the state after January 1, 1968 will be recognized as valid.

While common law marriages before 1968 in Florida are still valid, anyone looking to establish a common law marriage in Florida now will be unsuccessful. In order for a marriage to be valid in Florida, both parties must be at least 18 years of age, or 17 if there is parent permission and if the older of the two parties is no more than 2 years older. The parties must submit their social security numbers to the clerk of court, unless they don’t have one. Under some circumstances, a premarital course may be necessary. When the requirements are met, the State of Florida will issue a marriage license to the couple.

Because common law marriages can no longer be established in Florida, it is particularly important to obtain a marriage certificate if you want your union to be legally recognized. While you may realize at one point or another that there were defects in your marriage license, it is still likely your marriage will be recognized by the state. The state will recognize your union as long as you were in “substantial compliance” with the marriage laws.

Common law marriages may no longer be legally established in Florida, but this is not to say that they no longer exist in the state. Of course, those common law marriages established prior to January 1, 1968 will be recognized as valid. A common law marriage can also be valid in Florida if the couple moved to Florida after previously living in a state that recognizes common law marriages and their common law marriage was legally formed pursuant to that state’s laws.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Are you legally married or not? Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou can help you answer this fundamental question and more. For all of your marriage formation and dissolution legal questions, we are here for you. Contact us today.

Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.