Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriages?


A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage that can arise in some states when two people cohabitate and hold themselves out as spouses despite the fact that they did not obtain a marriage license and participate in a marriage ceremony. Legally speaking, a common law marriage functions much like a regular marriage. For example, couples who wish to end a legally recognized common-law marriage must obtain a divorce (or an annulment) just like any other married couple. Currently, 15 states (plus the District of Columbia) recognize common law marriages in some capacity; however, Florida is not one of them. 

Florida is NOT a Common Law Marriage State 

It is important to note that Florida is not currently a state in which a cohabitating couple can create a common-law marriage. Florida was however a common-law marriage state until 1968, therefore common-law marriages established in Florida before that date are still recognized under Florida law. Additionally, Florida law also recognizes common law marriages from other states. In other words, if you and your partner legally establish a common law marriage in another state and then move to Florida your marriage status will be retained here.

In order to better understand Florida’s relationship with common-law marriages, consider the following hypothetical situations:

  • Hypothetical #1: John and Pam have been living together for 15 years in Florida, they have the capacity to marry, they treat each other as spouses, and they hold themselves out as a married couple to their family and friends. John and Pam are not married because Florida is not currently a common-law marriage state.
  • Hypothetical #2: John and Pam lived together for 15 years in Kansas, they had the capacity to marry, they treated each other as spouses, and they held themselves out as a married couple to their family and friends until they moved to Florida last week. John and Pam formed a common law marriage while living in Kansas that is still recognized in Florida.

Divorce Requirements Under Florida Law 

Couples who have legally established common law marriages outside of Florida are welcome to obtain a divorce here in Florida, provided that certain requirements are met. For example, a petition for dissolution of marriage can only be filed in Florida if one or both spouses have resided in Florida for at least six months immediately prior to filing. Additionally, the couple must be able to demonstrate that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of their marriage (or that one spouse is mentally incapacitated). 

Reach Out to Us for Help 

If you currently live in Florida but formed a common law marriage in another state that you would like to dissolve, the experienced divorce lawyers of the Law Offices of David. L. Hirschberg, P.A. are here to help. Our firm understands that the concept of legally dissolving a common law marriage is often a confusing concept and are sympathetic to the fact that some prospective clients are not completely sure if they have a common law marriage or not. Therefore, our firm invites prospective clients who have questions about getting divorced in Florida to attend an initial consultation during which one of our experienced family law attorneys will discuss your legal options with you. To schedule a consultation, contact our Boca Raton office today at (561) 763-7622

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