Oct 22

The Truth About Common Law Marriage in South Carolina

Written by: Megan Dell


The Truth About Common Law Marriage in South CarolinaSouth Carolina is one of the few states that still has common law marriage.  To get married, a couple can get a marriage license through the South Carolina Probate Court, or they can become “common law married” without a license: the marriage license is not necessary, pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-360 .

If a person is eligible to receive a marriage license, he or she can also become married by common law.

There is a misconception that common law marriage in South Carolina automatically happens when a couple lives together for a certain length of time; this is simply not true.  Rather, the couple must share an intent to be married to each other, and they must present themselves to the public as a married couple.

Common evidence of common law marriage can be tax returns that are filed jointly, insurance policies (especially those naming a “spouse” as a beneficiary), and memberships identifying the parties as spouses.

An engagement between two people actually disproves a common law marriage – it suggests that the parties planned to get married, but did not consider themselves to actually be married.

The South Carolina Family Court will weigh the evidence to prove or disprove a common law marriage between two people, and the Court will decide whether a common law marriage exists between the parties.

Once a couple is common law married, they must divorce to end their marriage.  Though it may be easy to enter a common law marriage, a spouse cannot simply undo it by changing his or her mind.

To learn more about your particular situation, schedule a consultation with our family lawyer in South Carolina today.