How does Florida recognize common-law marriages?

Understanding Common-Law Marriages in Florida

In the realm of family law, common-law marriage stands as a curious relic of legal history. Unlike formal marriage, which requires a recognized ceremony and official documentation, common-law marriage is an informal arrangement where a couple is considered legally married without these formalities, provided certain conditions are met. However, when it comes to the state of Florida, the recognition of such unions has a distinct set of rules and historical context.

Florida does not recognize common-law marriages that are entered into within the state after January 1, 1968. This means that couples who cohabitate and present themselves as a married couple in Florida cannot be considered legally married under common-law principles if their relationship began after this cut-off date. The statute that abolished common-law marriage in Florida was aimed at avoiding the legal uncertainties and disputes over property and inheritance that often accompanied common-law marriages.

However, Florida does recognize common-law marriages that were established before January 1, 1968. Additionally, the state also acknowledges common-law marriages that are validly formed in other states where such unions are still recognized. This is due to the 'full faith and credit' clause of the United States Constitution, which requires states to respect the 'public acts, records, and judicial proceedings' of every other state.

For example, if a couple has lived together for many years in a state that recognizes common-law marriage and they have held themselves out to be married — both socially and financially — they may be considered legally married in that state. If they move to Florida, their marriage would still be recognized despite Florida's own laws against creating new common-law marriages.

Historical References to Common-Law Marriage Recognition

The concept of common-law marriage dates back centuries and was originally based on English law. It was recognized in many states during the early years of the United States as a way to legitimize unions in areas where there were no officials available to perform formal ceremonies. Over time, as society and legal systems evolved, most states have abolished common-law marriages because they create potential for misunderstandings and legal complexities.

In summary, while Florida no longer allows for the creation of new common-law marriages within its borders, it will recognize those that were established elsewhere according to the respective laws of those states or ones formed within Florida before 1968. It is always recommended for individuals in any form of marital relationship to understand their legal rights and obligations fully — consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney can provide clarity on such matters.