What Is a Common Law Marriage in SC?

Besides traditional marriage, the law acknowledges common law marriage in SC. It is a legal form of union that eliminated the need for licensing and ceremonies. SC Code § 20-1-30 is one of the law sections regulating common law marriage. According to this section, Greenville couples who live as husband and wife are married disregarding marriage rites.  

Section § 20-1-360 clarifies that stipulations referring to marriage licenses do not render unlicensed marriages illegal. In order for the law to accept a relationship as common law marriage, several conditions must be met.

Conditions for a Relationship to Qualify as Common Law Marriage in SC

  • Eligibility for marriage: The partners should be of legal age and unmarried. They cannot be brother and sister.
  • Cohabitation: The partners should live together as husband and wife, sharing household duties.
  • Marriage intention: The parties must have agreed, formally or informally, to get married
  • Reputation: Both partners should behave married and refer to one another as husband and wife

Proving Common Law Marriage in Greenville, SC

Many couples choose common law marriage to avoid licensing hassles and wedding expenses. They only realize the importance of legalizing their marriage when divorcing or on their death bed. In SC, a common law marriage gives the partners the same legal rights as a traditional marriage.

Even the divorce process is similar. In fact, the only way to end a common law marriage is through divorce or death. Someone in a common law marriage who walks away and remarries risks bigamy charges.

However, in order to defend their rights, the spouses will have to prove their common law marriage. Since they do not have a marriage license, the process can be long and difficult. The best way to approach it is with the help of a Greenville, SC, family law attorney. The latter will analyze the case and help their client gather all the necessary evidence. They will take over all formalities and provide guidance every step of the way.

Effects of SC Common Law Marriage on the Partners’ Rights and Obligations

When partners break up, their rights and responsibilities will depend on their marital status.

Here are just some examples of how common law marriage affects the partner’s rights.

1. Alimony

Let’s take the example of a couple in which only one of the partners makes an income. As an unmarried couple, if they break up, each partner is on their own. Common law marriage may force the partner making an income to pay alimony.

2. Assets and Debts

When unmarried partners break up, each keeps the assets and debts titled in their name. In case of divorce after common law marriage, the partners usually have equal rights. The only exception to the rule is when they have a formal agreement regarding asset division. The court usually decides who gets to keep every asset and how they compensate their partner.

3. Custody and Child Support

When unmarried couples in Greenville have a child, the mother gets full custody. Unless the mother obtains other rights in court, the father has no obligation to pay child support. Common law marriage gives the partners equal rights. The court will decide who gets child custody and under what terms.

4. Death and Probate

 In the case of unmarried couples, when one partner dies, the other one has no inheritance rights. The only case when they could receive an inheritance is if the deceased mentioned them in their will. Common law in SC gives the surviving partner right to inheritance. If the couple did not have children, the surviving spouse receives all of the estate. If they had children, the surviving spouse receives only half of the estate.

Depending on the specifics of the case, proving common law marriage can be difficult and painful. It will take documents, witnesses, and exposing private information. It is best to leave the case in the hands of a Greenville family law attorney. The latter will know exactly where to look and what evidence to provide.

Let Greenville Family Law Attorney Robert Clark Help with Your Common Law Marriage in SC Case

Do you need help proving your common law marriage in SC? Would you like to know what your right and options are in case of divorce or your partner’s demise? The reputed family law attorney Robert Clark can help. Call Greenville Family Law at (864) 729-3900, and schedule a consultation now! You will find out everything you need to know about your SC common law marriage case.

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