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Common Law Marriage Alabama

Common Law Marriage Alabama

Common Law Marriage in Alabama: What You Need To Know

Marriage is a legal institution that is governed by the state. However, there is one kind of marriage that is not based on a legal document but rather on the actions and behaviors of couples that have lived together for a certain amount of time. It is known as common law marriage. In this article, we will explore the concept of common law marriage in Alabama. From what it entails to the obligations and legal consequences of common law marriage, we will provide much-needed information on state law that applies to unmarried couples living together.

What is Common Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage, also referred to as informal marriage or marriage by habit and repute, is a legally recognized marriage in certain states that does not involve obtaining a marriage license or following a formal ceremony. Common law marriage is recognized as a legal union between two people who hold themselves to be spouses in a romantic relationship and continuously cohabited for a specific period, usually seven years or more.

Although common law marriage is technically a legal relationship, it is created in a different manner than formal marriages. Rather than obtaining a marriage license, common law marriage is established when a couple lives together in a manner similar to a married couple, and they hold themselves and others to be married. Cohabitation is essential for common law marriage to exist since it is based on behavior and actions that show an emotional and physical commitment between the involved parties.

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Alabama?

Alabama used to recognize common law marriage, but the state stopped recognizing it on January 1, 2017. Even common law marriage that existed before 2017 is no longer valid in the state. The Legislature passed the law to end the recognition of common law marriage in Alabama, and now the only way to be legally married is through a traditional marriage process.

It is essential to note that if you entered into a common law marriage in another state that legally recognized common law marriage before 2017, the State of Alabama would still recognize it as valid. However, the only way to determine the validity of an Out-Of-State common law marriage is through proof of the legal substance of the marriage, including evidence of cohabitation, reputation, habit, repute, and intent to create a marital relationship.

Legal Consequences of Alabama Common Law Marriage

Since common law marriage is no longer recognized in Alabama, many issues that arise in ordinary marriages are not present in this type of relationship. The main legal consequence of common law marriage is that the couple treated as married to a third party and protected under the Protection from Abuse laws. Furthermore, any court proceeding related to common law marriage before 2017 considers it to be valid and takes it as a formal marriage.

Although common law marriage is not recognized, the state recognizes child custody, child support, and spousal support cases that arise from common law marriages entered before 2017. In other words, any children born out of an Alabama common law marriage are subject to the state’s laws and guidelines regarding child custody and support.

Obligations and Rights of Alabama Common Law Married Couples

Even though Alabama does not recognize common law marriage, couples that have been living together for several years can have certain rights. These include the following obligations and rights:

Division of Property – In the absence of a valid and recognized marriage and cohabitation agreement, property ownership and division can be complicated. In Alabama, the issue of dividing property may arise if the parties end their relationship, especially if one party worked while the other stayed at home.

Health Care Decisions – Without a valid marriage certificate, you lack the legal authority to make health care decisions on behalf of your partner. However, Alabama law recognizes family members as proxies if necessary.

Legal Benefits – When dealing with legal benefits such as employer health care coverage, retirement benefits, and other insurance claims, partners in common law marriages do not receive the same protection as formally married couples.

Survivorship Rights – Unmarried couples living together are not entitled to each other’s property or assets upon death. For example, property passed from one will to a family member instead of an unmarried partner.


Common law marriage is an alternative to traditional marriage, and it has significant effects when it comes to division of property, child custody, and other legal obligations. Alabama no longer recognizes common law marriage, but Out-Of-State common law marriages are still valid if they are legally sound. This means that couples who entered into a common-law marriage in another state can move to Alabama and have that marriage recognized under Alabama law. Nevertheless, whether common law marriage in Alabama or any other state, it is important that you understand your rights and obligations. Whether you are married formally or through a common law, knowledge is power.

A brief guide to common law marriages in Alabama

Two people who are in a relationship may have their status as a married couple legally recognized even without an official license from the state of Alabama.

There are four conditions that must be met if you seek recognition for a common-law marriage in Alabama:

• Both partners must be mentally capable of entering into a formal relationship. This means that common law marriages in Alabama cannot be entered into by two spouses who do not understand the nature of this kind of relationship or the responsibilities it involves.

• Both partners must make the nature of their relationship clear to others. For a common law marriage in Alabama to be recognized, both spouses must inform other people of the relationship.

At all times, both partners must be open and straightforward in making sure others are aware of their marital status.

• A couple must agree to enter into a permanent relationship in order to enter into common-law marriages in Alabama. Sometimes two spouses may be thinking of obtaining a marriage license from the state at a later date. This places the status of their common law marriage in Alabama in question.

• The spouses must have had intercourse. Without this kind of consummation, common law marriages in Alabama will not be legally recognized.

The reasons to enter into this kind of relationship are up to two spouses. However, it is important to be aware that while the court system will recognize a common-law marriage in Alabama in some circumstances, it can lead to many complications. This is especially true if a relationship does not succeed.

If you wish to separate from your spouse, a court may not be able to process a divorce-related to common law marriages in Alabama.

Spouses who are involved in this kind of relationship should make sure to create a will documenting how they wish for their assets and resources to be divided after their death. Failure to do so will make it difficult for a partner in a common-law marriage in Alabama to collect any part of an estate.

In such instances, a spouse who is undertaking the probate process will have to ask a judge to accept their relationship as valid despite the lack of state recognition. This will mean proving that the deceased partner in common-law marriages in Alabama intended for their partner to inherit their estate.

It is important to understand that these kinds of relationships are only recognized by ten states, as well as Washington, D.C. This means that if you move, another state may not necessarily recognize the validity of your common law marriage in Alabama.

In order to have your relationship legally recognized for tax purposes or other reasons, you may have to obtain a marriage license from whatever state you move to. Therefore, if you have a job that requires you to move frequently, common law marriages in Alabama may not be a good alternative to formal marriage.