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Common Law Marriage in Florida: Yes or No?

If you're wondering whether you have a common law marriage in Florida, the answer is most likely "no." Learn more in this comprehensive guide.

evident Editorial Team
March 4, 2024
couple, marriage, man, woman

The term "common law marriage in Florida" often surfaces in relationships and legal unions, leading to many questions and misconceptions. Especially in Florida, where the nuances of this topic have been a matter of debate and inquiry and where common law marriage is not currently recognized. 

This article covers common law marriage in the Sunshine State, answering pressing questions and debunking prevalent myths. Whether you're curious about the history of common law in Florida, wondering if the state recognizes such unions, or seeking clarity on the rights of unmarried couples, we've got you covered. 

Read on to gain a comprehensive understanding of common law marriage in Florida, equipped with high-quality external links, engaging lists, and charts for a seamless reading experience.

Key Takeaways

What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage stands distinct from traditional marriage in its formation. Instead of a grand ceremony or the acquisition of a marriage license, a common law marriage is established when a couple lives together and presents themselves as a married couple to their community, all without the formalities of a legal wedding.

The key elements of a common law marriage typically include the following:

  1. Cohabitation: The couple lives together for a significant period.
  2. Representation: Both partners consistently introduce themselves as a married couple to friends, family, and the public.
  3. Intent: A mutual understanding and intent to be considered as married.

While common law marriage might sound straightforward, its recognition varies across states. States that recognize common law marriages include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana. Others, including Florida, Illinois, and Tennessee do not.

Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriage?

No, Florida does not recognize new common law marriages. 

The common law marriage statute in Florida, Florida statute §741.211, says that any common law marriage entered into after 1967 is invalid. Therefore, if you and your partner began a relationship after January 1, 1968, you cannot legally marry in Florida without a marriage license, regardless of how long you have been together.

However, if a couple entered a common law marriage in Florida before the 1968 cut-off, their union is still recognized. 

Additionally, if a couple establishes a valid common law marriage in a state that recognizes common law marriage--like Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana--and then relocates to Florida, their marriage will typically be acknowledged under the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" of the U.S. Constitution.

However, if you want to end a common law marriage, you cannot do so in Florida. You must do so in the state where your common law marriage status was originally granted.

Couples must understand this distinction, especially when considering the legal rights, benefits, and obligations of a recognized marriage. For instance, without a recognized marriage, certain rights related to property ownership, inheritance, and medical decisions might be affected.

Rights of Unmarried Couples 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.

Whether they've been together for a short while or several decades, unmarried couples in Florida often wonder about their legal standing, especially in comparison to their married counterparts or states that have recognized common law marriage. 

Even if you don't want to get that Florida marriage license, certain rights and legal avenues are available to unmarried couples.

  • Property Rights: Unlike married couples, unmarried partners in Florida don't automatically share property ownership. Property acquired during the relationship belongs to the person whose name is on the title. However, partners can draft cohabitation agreements to specify property rights.
  • Healthcare Decisions: Without a recognized marriage, partners might not have the automatic right to make medical decisions for each other. Unmarried couples should have advanced healthcare directives in place.
  • Inheritance: Without a will, an unmarried partner in Florida won't automatically inherit the other's assets upon death. Drafting a clear will is crucial for unmarried couples to ensure their wishes are honored.
  • Parental Rights: Both biological parents have rights regarding their children, but it's essential to establish legal paternity for fathers to ensure full parental rights.

There are certain legal benefits to being married. For many couples, these legal benefits are one of the reasons they choose to enter a legally recognized marriage in Florida.

Debunking Myths: The "7-Year Rule" and More

The world of common law marriage is rife with myths and misconceptions, and Florida is no exception. 

Let's address some of the most prevalent myths:

  • The 7-Year Rule: One of the most widespread myths is that living together for seven years automatically results in a common law marriage. This is not true. No specific duration of cohabitation automatically translates to a recognized marriage, not in Florida or any other state.
  • Shared Finances Equals Marriage: Simply sharing bank accounts or expenses doesn't mean a couple is in a common law marriage. Legal marriage requires more specific criteria.
  • Common Law Marriage Certificate: There's no such thing as a "common law marriage certificate." Either a couple meets the criteria for common law marriage in a recognized state, or they don't.

Same-Sex Marriages and Common Law in Florida

Florida's journey with same-sex marriages has seen significant evolution. As of January 6, 2015, same-sex marriages became legally recognized in the state.

However, when it comes to common law marriages, the situation remains consistent for same-sex and opposite-sex couples: Florida does not recognize new common law marriages post-1968, irrespective of the genders involved.

For same-sex couples who established a valid common law marriage in a state that recognizes it and then moved to Florida, their union is typically acknowledged, mirroring the stance for opposite-sex couples.

People Also Ask

What is considered a common law marriage in Florida?

In Florida, a common law marriage is a union where a couple lives together and presents as married without undergoing a formal ceremony or obtaining a marriage license. However, it's crucial to note that Florida only recognizes common law marriages established before January 1, 1968.

Do unmarried couples have rights in Florida?

Yes, unmarried couples in Florida have certain rights, especially concerning property ownership, healthcare decisions, and parental rights. However, these rights differ from those of legally married couples. Unmarried couples should draft legal documents like cohabitation agreements and wills to protect their rights.

Are you considered married if you've been together for seven years?

No, the notion that living together for seven years results in an automatic common law marriage is a myth. Duration of cohabitation alone doesn't establish a recognized marriage in any state.

What year did Florida abolish common law marriage?

Florida stopped recognizing new common law marriages on January 1, 1968. However, those established before this date remain valid.

Conclusion: Understanding Your Legal Standing in Florida

While Florida no longer recognizes new common law marriages, it's essential to be informed about the rights and protections available to unmarried couples. Whether you're considering cohabitation, curious about the legal implications of your relationship, or simply seeking knowledge, staying informed is key. 

Remember, every relationship is unique, and understanding the legal nuances can help ensure that your rights and wishes are always protected. 

For further insights and legal advice, consult a legal professional well-versed in Florida's marriage laws.