Florida used to be a big, rural and empty state.  Folks would propose, have a little ceremony and just start living together.  Not everyone would go down to the court house to register their marriage.  These relationships were referred to as common law marriages in Florida.  Common law marriages are marriages that become legal after the couple lives like husband and wife for a long enough period of time.  Common law marriages no longer exist in Florida the way they once did…but they’re not completely gone.

No More Future Common Law Marriage In Florida

In 2016, the Florida state legislature enacted the following law: Common-law marriages void.—No common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, shall be valid, except that nothing contained in this section shall affect any marriage which, though otherwise defective, was entered into by the party asserting such marriage in good faith and in substantial compliance with this chapter.” Florida Stat. Sec. 741.211

So, common law marriages from before 1968 (that’s means your common law marriage would be older than the moon landing) are still valid.  There are less of these common law marriages every day.

Anyone with their partner but not having a formal marriage certificate after 1968 cannot ask that the court or any other Florida governmental body recognize their marriage as valid.

What If My Florida Marriage License Was Defective?

Now that common law marriage is no longer allowed in Florida, this means that you better get the marriage certificate if you want to be married in the eyes of the state of Florida.

Florida marriage licenses can be tricky because there are actually a bunch of requirements to get a marriage license.  The statutory requirements for a Florida marriage license (Fla. Stat. Sec. 741.4) include:

  • That everyone be 18 (or 17 with parents’ permission but only if the older person is no more than 2 years older)
  • The parties have submitted their social security numbers to the clerk of court (unless you don’t have one)
  • The parties have taken a premarital course (unless they don’t want to)

So, with these weird rules can you one person just say, “We didn’t follow the rules, therefore we weren’t formally married and there’s no common law marriage in Florida so I don’t owe you any alimony or division of assets”?

No.  Because the statute outlawing common law marriage has contemplated this possibility “nothing contained in this section shall affect any marriage which, though otherwise defective, was entered into by the party asserting such marriage in good faith and in substantial compliance with this chapter.” Florida Stat. Sec. 741.211.

So, if your Florida marriage license got screwed up but you were more-or-less doing the right thing, common law marriage becomes valid again.

Some Common Law Marriages Are Still Valid In Florida

A common law marriage can be valid in Florida under the following circumstances.

  • People who have moved to Florida
  • That previously lived in a state that does recognizes common law marriages
  • And that common law marriage was formed pursuant to that state’s law,

If you meet all of these requirements, then Florida will consider your common law marriage valid.. “validly created in a jurisdiction recognizing such marriages.” Am. Airlines, Inc. v. Mejia, 766 So. 2d 305, 307 n. 5 (Fla. 4th Dist.Ct.App.2000).

For reference’s sake, the below are the states that allow common law marriages that could be transmuted to Florida as of 2019.

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington, D.C. (not a state but they still have their own laws)

What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have In Florida?

If you’ve read this far only to find out that you are not in a Florida common law marriage you need to know your rights as an unmarried person in a long term relationship.

You cannot get divorced if you are not married in Florida.

There is no alimony in Florida if you are not married.  While some states have an alimony for unmarried couples called “palimony,” Florida does not.

If an unmarried couple has a child who has lived in Florida for the last 6 months they have the exact same rights vis-à-vis that child as a married couple. The unmarried couple can and will enter into a parenting plan that will govern their relationship with the child just as a divorcing couple would. This document can include child support and other financial issues relating to the child.

When it comes to unmarried couples and property, it’s completely different. The unmarried couple is treated identically to two friends or business partners who had property either individually or together. That is, what is in either person’s name or possession will remain in that person’s name or possession.

To divide anything that an unmarried couple has in both parties’ names you cannot go to Florida’s domestic relations courts.  Dividing unmarried people’s property is called a “partition action” and must take place in chancery courts.

If you want to know if you have a common law marriage in Florida, contact my Naples, Florida family law firm and get a free consultation to learn more.