How to Dispute a Common Law Marriage

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Many people assume that, if you have not had a formal marriage ceremony in a church, or at least gone down to the courthouse with your significant other and filled out the paperwork to get a marriage license, there is no way for you to be married. In most areas of the world, this is precisely the case: If you have not done either of these things, then you are not married. However, South Carolina is not one of these places. Instead, South Carolina is one of the few states that recognizes what is called common law marriage, which treats a man and a woman as being married in some circumstances, even if they have not made a formal proclamation that they are together.

Common Law Marriage in South Carolina


In South Carolina, you can be considered to be married under common law with another person if the following conditions are met:


  • Neither you nor your common law spouse are married to someone else;
  • You are both over 16 years old;
  • You are not a same-sex couple (common law marriage in South Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriage);
  • You both have an intent to be married;
  • You have cohabitated – unfortunately, to be common law married in South Carolina, there is no set amount of time that you have to have lived together. Instead, a court will merely take into account how long you have lived together in determining whether you have been common law married; and
  • You both hold yourselves out to other as being married – this includes filing joint tax returns, introducing yourselves to people as husband and wife, and acting as spouses normally would.


Because South Carolina is one of the very few states that recognizes common law marriage, and because there is no set of factors that determines for sure whether you are common law married, it can come as a surprise for some to suddenly discover that they are married to someone else.

How to Dispute a Common Law Marriage


The realization that you have been married under common law can be a shock. For some, being common law married might not be what you want. Unfortunately, the only way to undo a common law marriage is through a divorce. However, there might be another option: Dispute that the common law marriage ever happened.


Because there is no set of requirements that definitely make a common law marriage, there are lots of ways to dispute that one ever happened, in the first place. You can challenge that there was no intent to marry, or that you and your alleged spouse were not cohabiting for long enough for a common law marriage to happen, or point to all of the ways that you did not hold yourself out as spouses.

Call the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Elliott Frazier


Because common law marriages are so fact specific, having an experienced family law attorney in Greenville, SC like those at the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC can go great lengths to getting the outcome you want. Contact us today to help you challenge a common law marriage claim.

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