Common law marriage is a term used for a marriage that is considered to exist by both partners’ consent, but has not actually been performed or registered with a state or church. The marriage is implied simply by the fact that the couple presents themselves as having been married. In most states that allow for the formation of a common law marriage, the parties must have intended to be married, cohabitated, and held themselves out to the public as a married couple.
Common Law Marriage and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 51-1
Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 51-1, a marriage may only be created with the consent of both parties and in the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate, and with the declaration by the minister or magistrate that the parties are joined by matrimony.
Common law marriages or marriages by consent that arise in our state are not recognized by North Carolina law as valid legal marriages. North Carolina will recognize a common law marriage only if the couple entered into a common law marriage in a state that recognizes common law marriage and then moved to North Carolina.
Why is the establishment of a common law marriage important?
Simply put, if a common law marriage from another state is valid in North Carolina, then the parties to a divorce in this state can apply North Carolina laws regarding spousal support and equitable distribution in the event at least one party meets the six-month jurisdictional requirement.
How does one seek dissolution of a common law marriage?
While common law marriage may seem like an attractive alternative (as one need not meet any government licensing requirements), court interaction is very likely unavoidable when seeking a divorce. There are many more complexities involved in parting than in the initial union. For example, states that recognize common law marriage often do not recognize common law divorce. One is expected to go through the same divorce process as traditionally married couples. If North Carolina residents are the parties to a common law marriage established in another state, the couple must divorce before either party can remarry.
If you live in North Carolina and established a common law marriage in another state that you now wish to dissolve, contact a North Carolina family law attorney for clarification and assistance. The North Carolina family law attorneys at Montgomery Family Law have extensive experience with common law marriage in North Carolina and are here to help you find your way through a difficult time in your life.
To schedule an initial consultation to discuss your unique situation and learn about our services, give one of our family law attorneys a call at (919) 348-2317.
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