Florida Common Law Marriage

What is Common Law Marriage in Florida?

A common law marriage (also referred to as an informal marriage) is a union between a couple who live together and describe themselves as married without having a religious ceremony or obtaining a Florida marriage license. In contrast to religious or government-registered marriage, common-law marriages are not legal in most states in the US, including Florida. However, common-law marriage is applicable in Washington, Iowa, Colorado, South Carolina, Utah, Kansas, and Montana.

The state laws governing common law marriages differ per state. In most states, couples must live together for a certain period before the common-law marriage becomes valid. In addition, common-law marriage becomes valid when the couple has presented themselves as being married to the public. Common law marriages are an alternative option for couples aiming to avoid the cost or formalities of a conventional marriage. In addition, a legalized common-law marriage provides a host of benefits that cohabiting couples do not get. Some of these benefits include:

  • The right to make medical-related decisions for a disabled partner.
  • The right to inherit a spouse’s property
  • The right to spousal support in the event of a divorce, or split;
  • The right to divorce formally;
  • The right to custody;
  • The right to jail visitation.

While a common-law marriage may feature myriads of benefits for cohabiting couples, it has a few disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages associated with common-law marriages include:

  • The burden of child support and alimony discriminately falls on the father.
  • A lot of grey areas when splitting properties during a divorce;
  • Possible loss of the right of survivorship

Common-law marriage in Florida applies to only heterosexual couples. Cohabiting same-sex partners are not classified under common-law marriage. Furthermore, couples in common-law marriage must be above the legal age.

Does Florida Recognize Common-Law Marriages?

Currently, Florida state laws do not approve common-law marriages. Common-law marriages were valid in the state before January 1, 1968. According to Section 741.211 of The 2016 Florida Statutes, the state only validates common-law marriage entered into before January 1, 1968. However, the state recognizes common-law marriage established in states that approve common-law marriages. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, couples can maintain their common-law marriage status if they move to states that do not approve their common-law marriage status.

What is Domestic Partnership in Florida?

A domestic partnership involves two individuals in a committed and exclusive relationship where both parties are financially dependent on each other. Like common-law marriages, Florida state laws do not approve domestic partnerships formed after 1968. Before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, same-sex couples had to form domestic partnerships.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement in Florida?

A cohabitation agreement in Florida is a legally binding contract between two people living together. Florida Courts recognize it, and it is drafted to protect each party’s assets in the event of a split. Besides protecting each party’s assets, a cohabitation agreement may involve assigning different roles and responsibilities to each party. For example, the agreement might assign responsibilities for child support if there’s a child in the union. Also, it determines how couples can operate a separate or joint bank account and how to split finances during a break-up.

Florida Common Law Marriage and Palimony

The term “Palimony'' is a non-legal term that describes the spousal support between non-married partners after a split. The State of Florida does not legally recognize palimony or spousal support for common-law marriages. Therefore, non-married partners can not get palimony in the state. However, spouses can get spousal support or palimony if there’s a written agreement regarding future financial support. For the court to consider palimony payment, a spouse must present a written agreement signed in front of a notary public. Courts in Florida will use the Florida Contract Law to determine the extent to which financial support will be provided from one partner to another. A Partner may receive payments for a portion of jointly-held assets like houses and vehicles.

What are the Requirements for Common Law Marriages in Florida?

Under the state law, residents and non-residents can register for domestic partnerships if they satisfy the following criteria:

  • Each partner is at least 18 years old and competent to enter a domestic partnership contract;
  • Not related to each other in a way that would prohibit legal marriage in the state;
  • Is not married or in any other non-marriage contract with anyone other than the co-applicant;
  • Both partners must reside in the same primary residence;
  • The couple is codependent on each other with each party playing a particular role in the relationship.

Florida abolished all common law marriages formed after January 1, 1968. However, some counties and cities in Florida recognize non-marriage contracts, such as domestic partnership and cohabitation agreements.

There are no state-level centers for registering domestic partnerships in Florida. For instance, intending partners can file for domestic partnership in Miami-Dade by submitting a declaration of domestic partnership to the Clerk of the Commission at the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources in person or via mail to the:

Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources
Office of Consumer Protection
601 Northwest
1st Ct. 18th Floor
Miami, FL 33136
Phone: (786) 469-2300
Fax: (786) 469-2311

Intending couples must sign the completed form in front of a notary public before submitting it at the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources. The declaration of domestic partnership empowers registered couples with visitation rights at juvenile and correctional facilities and health centers. It costs $66 to file for a declaration of domestic partnership, and each certificate costs $8. Credit or debit cards are acceptable forms of payment for in-person submission to the Clerk of Commission. In contrast, checks or money orders are acceptable for mail-in orders.

How Many Years Do You Have to Live Together for Common Law Marriage in Florida?

Under Florida statutes, common-law marriages after 1968 are not valid, no matter how long the couple has lived together. Couples living together may apply for a cohabitation agreement or domestic partnership.

What is Informal Marriage in Florida?

Generally, informal marriage is a union between two persons living together without a marriage ceremony or registration at the state’s marriage registry. Examples of informal marriages include common-law marriages and domestic partnerships. Not all informal marriages formed in Florida are recognized under the state marital laws.

How Do You Prove a Common-Law Marriage in Florida?

A written agreement signed by both parties that detail the intent to marry is the best evidence to prove a common-law marriage in Florida. The written agreement becomes more compelling if the couple signed the document in the presence of a notary public. In addition to this, an affidavit signed during the marriage by the party proving the union is valid would be helpful to the court, especially if the other party benefited from lawful spouse status. Despite a written agreement, courts in Florida might require additional documents as evidence to substantiate the validity of the common-law marriage claim. The following documents can prove the existence of a common-law marriage:

  • An affidavit detailing the time and date when the couple entered into the common-law marriage;
  • Affidavits from third parties, such as families and neighbors, who are aware of the relationship, detailing the information on the duration of the relationship, the couple’s address, and if there was a public announcement of a marriage
  • Birth certificates naming both partners as the parents of their child;
  • Employment records containing the name of a spouse as an immediate family member;
  • School records listing the names of both partners as parents;
  • Credit or debit cards in the name of both common-law partners;
  • Promissory notes, or mortgages, proving the joint financial responsibilities of both partners;

Third-party websites may provide a convenient solution to obtaining related public records. These non-governmental platforms come with intuitive search tools that help simplify the process of accessing single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain public marriage records, requesters may need to provide:

  • The full name of both spouses (include first, middle, and last names)
  • The date the marriage occurred (month, date, and year)
  • The location where the marriage occurred (city and county)

How Do You Prove Common-Law Marriage in Florida After Death?

A widowed partner may prove a common-law marriage by providing documents supporting the claim. In addition, the widowed partner must accompany their claim with statements from two blood relatives of the deceased spouse.

Do Common-Law Marriages Require a Divorce?

Spouses in a legally recognized informal marriage, such as common-law marriage, who wish to separate must file for divorce via the same process as other ceremonially married couples. Since Florida recognizes common-law marriages, common-law couples follow the state-approved process for filing for divorce. Spouses may hire a divorce attorney since the court will decide on spousal support, child custody and support, and property division.

Does a Common-Law Wife Have Rights in Florida?

Common-law spouses in Florida are entitled to a majority of the same rights as a traditionally married couple. Florida statutes recognize common-law marriage and accord common-law spouses the right to property distribution in the event of a split or death of a partner.

Can a Common Law Wife Collect Social Security in Florida?

Common-law spouses are eligible for the same social security benefits as those in a traditional marriage. Common-law couples must fit the following criteria to be eligible for social security benefits such as survivor and spousal benefits:

  • The couple formed a common-law marriage in a region where it is considered legal or valid;
  • The couple can provide legal documents that prove the existence of a common-law marriage.

Per Social Security guidelines, common-law couples who meet the validity requirements for Florida must file for social security. First, both spouses must fill out a Form SSA-754 (Statement of Marriage Relationship) in conjunction with an affirmation from a blood relative (Form SSA-753).

Are Common Law Wives Entitled to Half in Florida?

Under Florida family law, common-law wives are not entitled to half of their property in the event of a divorce. Unlike wives in a traditional marriage, common-law wives do not have statutory rights to their partner’s property. Common-law wives are only entitled to half of a property if there was written agreement to that effect. In the absence of a written agreement, common-law wives or partners can only lay claim to properties that contain their name as a sole owner or co-owner.

How Do You Get a Common-Law Marriage Affidavit in Florida?

Since Florida does not validate common-law marriages, common-law couples can only get an affidavit in states where common-law marriage is valid. Generally, common-law affidavits, which also serves as a certificate of marriage, must contain the following information:

  • The date when the couple decided to enter into a common-law marriage;
  • The state and county where the couple formed the union;
  • Affirmation that both parties are above the minimum legal age.

When Did Common Law Marriage End in Florida?

Florida abolished common-law marriage in 1968. Therefore, every common-law marriage after 1968 is invalid.

What is Considered Common Law Marriage in Florida?

Common-law marriage is not valid in Florida. According to the Florida Marriage; Domestic Violence 741.08., marriages without solemnization or a marriage license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court are invalid. Therefore, couples who refer to themselves as “married” without solemnization or a marriage license are not legally married. However, Florida recognizes the validity of common-law marriage if it was created in states that validates common-law marriages.

What is the Difference Between Common-Law Marriage and Domestic Partnership

Although common-law marriage and domestic partnership are informal marriages, the state accords domestic partnerships with nearly the same rights as traditional married couples. However, domestic partnerships formed in Florida are only recognized and valid within the state’s geographical boundary. In contrast, common-law marriages are recognized by a majority of states in the country.

Does the Federal Government Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

There is no nationwide recognition of common-law marriage - only nine states validate and recognize common-law marriage. The common-law-approving states include Kansas, South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, Montana, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Rhode Island. In addition, common-law marriages are also recognized and considered valid in Florida, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio - as long as the union was approved before the states abolished it. Common-law couples from these states are eligible for most federal benefits accrued to traditional married couples.