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What is ‘common-law marriage’ in Georgia?

It is indisputable that many of the customs of any society tend to change with the passage of time. Certain mores and behaviors that were at one time common can disappear as years pass, and other behaviors that were discouraged can begin to lose their stigma. Throughout the United States, including Georgia, the custom of adults in a romantic relationship living together before getting legally married, or perhaps never getting legally married at all, has increased over the past decades.

At one time, just about every state recognized a union called a ‘common-law’ marriage that could apply to individuals in such situation. While Georgia, along with many other states, has ‘inactivated’ common-law marriages through passage of a statute, certain relationships may still fall into this category if they were established prior to January 1, 1997, or in a state that still recognizes this type of union. So what is a common-law marriage?

In Georgia, common law marriages generally required that a couple do a few things, mostly to do with their intent for the relationship. First, the couple needed to be living together in the same residence. They also needed to have held themselves out to other people as married, perhaps by the use of the terms “husband” and wife,” and to have intended to do so. Each of them also must not have been legally married to anyone else.

So what does this mean? If a couple met the above requirements in Georgia before January 1, 1997, they might be considered married under the law even if they never actively obtained a license and had a ceremony. In such cases, they may need to get a divorce if they wish to dissolve the relationship. People with questions as to whether they are common-law spouses may want to consider speaking with an experienced Georgia family lawyer.

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