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Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriage?
Many couples live together without getting married. Some of those couples have been living together for many years and may consider themselves to be married. However, do Florida laws recognize a legal marital union without a marriage license and ceremony? Though there are some exceptions, Florida does not recognize common law marriage.
Common Law Marriage in Florida
Some states recognize common law marriage if a couple has lived together for a certain period and held themselves out to be married. Courts may consider factors such as whether the couple has joint financial accounts, tells people they are married, and recognizes that the other person has the authority to make financial and health care decisions for each other.
However, Florida’s laws are very clear on common law marriage. Florida statute §741.211 makes common law marriages void in Florida. The statute says that any common law marriage entered into after 1967 is invalid.
Therefore, if you and your partner began a relationship after January 1, 1968, you cannot be legally married in Florida without a marriage license, regardless of how long you have been together. You could have lived together and claimed each other as spouses since January 2, 1968, but the State of Florida will not recognize the marriage.
Are There Exceptions to the Common Law Marriage Statute in Florida?
Yes, there are some exceptions to the law regarding common law marriage in Florida.
If you and your spouse were considered married under the laws of another state, Florida recognizes that union. There are a few states that still recognize common law marriage. If you claimed common law marriage in a state that recognizes those unions as legally valid, you should have the same rights in Florida as a legally married couple.
However, if you want to terminate a common law marriage that is recognized by another state, you need to file for a divorce in the state in which you were married. Because Florida does not recognize common law marriages as valid after 1967, it does not provide a process for terminating a common law marriage created under another state’s laws.
Also, couples who were married under common law before January 1, 1968, are still considered married under Florida’s laws. Those couples continue to enjoy the rights of other married couples in Florida.
Legal Rights of Married Couples
Each couple must make the decision that is best for them when deciding whether or not to get married. However, some legal rights are reserved for married couples in Florida.
If your union is not recognized under one of the two exceptions to the common law marriage statute in Florida, you and your partner cannot enjoy the legal rights extended to married individuals in Florida. There are certain legal benefits to being married. For many couples, these legal benefits are one of the reasons they choose to enter a legally recognized marriage in Florida.
Legal benefits couples enjoy in the State of Florida include:
Couples who live together without being married do not enjoy the above legal rights unless they take steps to execute legal documents giving each other these rights. For example, an unmarried couple could execute estate documents that allow them to inherit from each other. They may also execute medical directives and health care powers of attorney to give each other the right to make medical decisions for each other.
Is it Illegal to Live Together in Florida Without Being Married?
Until 2016, couples who lived together without being married were breaking the law. Though not enforced, the law that had been on the books for over 140 years made it illegal for couples to cohabitate in Florida without being married.
Since common law marriage is not recognized in Florida, that means that living with your spouse not only does not constitute a marriage, it actually means you are breaking the law. Governor Rick Scott repealed the law in 2016.