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Tampa Divorce Attorney | Blog | Divorce | Can You Get a Florida Divorce for a Common-Law Marriage?

Can You Get a Florida Divorce for a Common-Law Marriage?


Marriage has not always been regulated by the state. In colonial America, many couples entered into “common law” marriages that were not formally recognized by any governmental or religious body. These couples held themselves out as married but never obtained any kind of marriage license.

Over time, of course, the states took a greater role in governing marriages. Today, only about 10 states still recognize some form of common-law marriage. Florida is not one of them. So what does this mean for couples who live together in a committed relationship but never choose to enter into a legal marriage?

Florida Does Not Recognize Most Common-Law Marriages

Before 2016, it was technically a crime in Florida for unmarried couples to live together. Such cohabitation was considered “lewd” and “lascivious” behavior punishable by up to 60 days in jail. The law was rarely enforced in modern times, but it demonstrates how strict the rules governing marriage have become in Florida.

To that end, Florida law continues to expressly forbid common-law marriage. Section 741.211 declares such marriages invalid unless they were entered into before January 1, 1968. But there is a limited exception. If a couple entered into a common-law marriage while residents of another state that recognizes such marriages, Florida will also recognize the marriage as valid.

In terms of getting a divorce, however, you cannot actually dissolve a common-law marriage in Florida. Such couples are still considered unmarried persons under the law. This means that a common-law spouse seeking to end the relationship cannot request or receive alimony under Florida law. If the couple has children, they are treated the same as any other unmarried parents. The parties would have to enter into a parenting plan, which can include child support.

Keep in mind that if the parties entered a legal common-law marriage in another state, they may be able to seek a legal divorce in that state. Florida courts would still be required to recognize a valid divorce judgment entered by a court of another state. But a Florida court cannot oversee a common-law divorce.

Contact Tampa Family Law Attorney Laura A. Olson Today

Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, many same-sex couples entered into “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” in states that recognized such relationships. Again, Florida was not one of those states. And in fact, only a handful of states continue to recognize such unions.

That said, a number of Florida counties, including Hillsborough, do recognize domestic partnerships, which can enable an unmarried couple to enjoy certain benefits. But once again, these are not considered marriages or marriage equivalents by the State of Florida. So if the parties decide to terminate their domestic partnership, it can raise certain complications with respect to division of property or the custody of any common children.

If you are involved in any kind of relationship and need legal advice from a qualified Tampa family law attorney, contact the Law Office of Laura A. Olson, P.A., today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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