Individuals in Alabama who have been living under “common law marriage” arrangements before January 1, 2017, will still be classified as “married” if they have presented themselves openly to be “husband and wife.” However, at the end of 2016, Alabama will no longer acknowledge common-law marriages.

On May 3, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley signed a bill Representative Mike Jones had introduced during the state legislature’s last session. Jones’ bill effectually abolishes the practice of common law marriages in Alabama. Essentially, the bill prohibits anyone from entering into a common-law marriage after January 1, 2017. “Family law attorney Charlotte Christian of Charlotte Christian Law in Huntsville, Alabama, comments, “This law will change the long-standing recognition of a common-law marriage used as a means by many couples to avoid a ‘ceremonial marriage.”

Common-law marriage is dissimilar to a customary marriage in that it does not require couples to perform ceremonies conducted by public or religious officials. Furthermore, couples are not obligated to acquire marriage licenses. Historically, Alabama law requires individuals of common-law marriages to enter into agreements of marriage relationships and then to present themselves publically as “married.” Proof of such marriages could include but is not limited to, couples filing joint tax returns, maintaining joint bank accounts, or simply presenting themselves as “husband” and “wife”.

The new law, effective January 1, 2017, will result in changing legal implications for the judicial systems of the State of Alabama, one of the few states that still recognize “common-law marriages.” Presently, some legal issues with common-law marriages can emerge when one person in the relationship denies the “common-law union” has transpired. Then the courts must evaluate several circumstances to determine if the couple’s “union” was binding as a “marriage” and then make appropriate rulings. “Common-law” divorces do not exist!

Common-law marriages have never been permitted in thirteen states. Alabama’s new law leaves Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah as the only remaining states still recognizing some form of common-law marriage as noted in their statutes.

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    Charlotte Christian, Esq. is a family and divorce lawyer and founder of Charlotte Christian Law. Born and raised in the Yellowhammer State she still calls home, Charlotte is committed to helping those who experienced loss overcome their hardships and build a new life, stronger and more resilient than they were before. No stranger to trauma herself, including enduring the sudden losses of her father while a young child and husband after 10 years of marriage, Charlotte knows what it means practically and legally to put the pieces in place to create a future filled with security, hope, and opportunity, and find happiness once again. An avid sports fan, you can find Charlotte supporting SEC Athletics.

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