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No More Common Law Marriage in S.C.

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Have ever heard someone say, “We have been together for seven years” so we are common law married?  Well if so, those days are over.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has provided clear guidance for S.C. residents.  If you want to be married in S.C. after June 24, 2019, you must obtain a lawful license.  If you want to claim common law marriage for relationships before June 24, 2019 you will need to file an action in family court or probate court asking that the court find that a common law marriage exist.  The court made the standard higher (clear and convincing evidence) to establish a common law marriage in S.C.   The court will look at numerous factors such as if the parties held themselves out as married or filed joint tax returns to determine if a common law marriage exist.  There is no one factor that proves common law marriage.

A determination of common law marriage can happen when both parties are alive or after the death of one party.  An action to determine common law marriage after death must be done within (8) months of the date of death or six months from the initial appointment of a personal representative.  There are reasons to claim common law marriage such as to claim spousal benefits after death, distribution of property after death, or to seek alimony after a relationship ends.  There may also be instances where parties do not want to be considered common law married.  The best thing to do is to enter into an agreement not to be married.  The agreement will need to clearly state the parties’ intentions for parties who have been residing together since before July 24, 2019.

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