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Common Law Marriage in Alabama


I have been living with my significant other for a few years. We can not get along and are thinking about divorcing. We consider ourselves married, can I get a divorce?

As of January 1, 2017, Alabama no longer recognizes common-law marriages. This new change leaves only a handful of states Colorado, Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C. A lawyer in New York, “Disputes over the existence of the marriage can become “he said/she said” contests, and court decisions focus on small details, such as whether the parties wore rings, whether they kept their finances separate, and whether their partner’s relatives addressed them as “in-laws.”

Common Law marriage was recognized so long as three elements were met. The elements included the following: (1) both parties had the capacity to presently enter into a marriage; (2) the parties co-habitated with one another; and (3) the parties held themselves out as husband and wife to the public.

Domestic courts considered a common-law marriage just as valid as a marriage performed in the sense of a traditional ceremonial marriage. Therefore, a court could divide marital property between the parties to a common-law marriage. Also, if the significant other left a will in the other’s name, then courts would recognize and respect the party’s wishes with respect to that will even though the parties were not officially married per se.

Recently, the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals decided a case in Ex parte Boddie dealing with a similar issue. In 2007, the parties divorced. The trial court ordered the father to pay $2,500 a month in child support. Several years later, in 2014, the father’s child support obligation was reduced to $1,176 per month. In July of 2015, the husband married another woman.

The mother alleged that the father owed her an arrearage in the amount of $169,591. The father then argued that up until 2012 they had been common-law married and thus he did not owe her the amount of money that the mother was seeking because their marriage had never been dissolved. However, the trial court held that the father had failed to present clear and convincing evidence that a common-law marriage ever existed.

Since Alabama now has this new law on the books concerning common-law marriage, if you are unsure whether you and your significant other have been common-law married, then you may need to consider a traditional ceremonial marriage. Therefore, it is equally important to consult with an experienced attorney concerning any estate planning needs you may have or may need.

If you are living with someone in Alabama and do not want a traditional marriage, that is your right. However, if you want your significant other, you need to draft a will to make sure that person receives your inheritance. Otherwise, your assets will go to your next-of-kin in Alabama

If you need a Family Lawyer in Alabama, contact Ingram Law LLC at (205) 335-2640.

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