How Common Law Marriage Works for Straight and LGBTQ+ Couples in Greenville, South Carolina

Not all states recognize common law marriage, but South Carolina is among the ones that still do. Now that laws have changed concerning LGBTQ+ marriages and relationships, the same factors that apply to straight couples in common law marriages apply to LGBTQ+ couples as well. Yet, many people are not clear on how it all works. Some think that all you have to do is live together for a certain amount of time. Others may decide, on separating, that theirs was a common law marriage and request a divorce, while the other party denies that the relationship was ever the equivalent of a marriage. Today, we’ll discuss what constitutes a common law marriage, and what you can do if you want to be recognized as a married couple without going through any kind of ceremony or getting a marriage license.

Why Might A Couple Decide to Recognize their Relationship as a Common Law Marriage?

Not everyone places a lot of significance on ceremonies or can afford to have one. In the case of LGBTQ+ couples, there may have been a marriage ceremony years ago, back when it was not possible to be legally married, but which held the same emotional significance as if it had been a legal union. Yet, not everyone feels the need to request permission to be in a martial union with a marriage license and an official ceremony. This does not mean that those couples don’t view themselves as married and don’t deserve to be recognized as a married couple for various reasons.

For example, when you are recognized as a married couple, you can benefit from your spouse’s insurance policy, inherit their assets if they pass away, and have a number of legal rights that you would not otherwise have. You are also protected in the event of a separation, by being entitled to get a legal divorce which fairly divides assets and addresses child custody and support concerns.

How Can You Prove that Your Relationship is a Common Law Marriage in Greenville, South Carolina?

In most common law marriages, both parties agree that they are a married couple, though they may still need to prove it for various reasons. In other cases, the issue of being a married couple by common law could come up only when the couple decides to separate, and it may need to be proven by the spouse who insists that it was a common law marriage when the other denies it.

To prove that your relationship constitutes a common law marriage in Greenville, South Carolina, you must show that you have acted and presented yourselves as a married couple to your family and friends. You must also show that both parties are legally allowed to be married to each other, so that neither can be married to anyone else, be too young to marry, or be closely related to their partner.  You must also prove that you have lived together, though there is no legal requirement for how long you have lived together. Having said that, cohabitating for a couple of months will not be taken as seriously as a cohabitation that lasted for several years. It is important to understand that the courts are going to look into the unique circumstances of your relationship if they must make a decision concerning whether or not your relationship is to be recognized as common law marriage.

Other ways to prove that you are in a common law marriage include records of filing your taxes as married filing jointly, sharing the same last name (which you may do with a name change), having joint checking and savings accounts, purchasing property or a home together, and evidence of contracts that you have entered into jointly. If you are in a common law marriage, then you must get divorced when you separate or you will not be able to fairly divide property or remarry in the future.

How Can You Legally Change Your Name in a Common Law Marriage in Greenville, South Carolina?

One thing that helps to establish that you are in a common law marriage in Greenville, South Carolina, is sharing the same last name. Fortunately, it is possible to legally change your name without actually having to go through with a legal marriage ceremony and process. Marriage is one way that you can get your last name changed, as is divorce, depending on your circumstances, but you can also change your last name by petitioning the court, updating your social security card, and using your new name.

If you are attempting to change your name outside of an official marriage or divorce process, you will do so by petitioning the court with the appropriate forms. This will start with the original petition for a change of name, in which you explain your reasoning for doing so. You will then have to have a criminal background check, though you will not necessarily be denied your petition for having a criminal record. You simply need to disclose any criminal convictions that you may have up front. Then, you will need to provide any documents that relate to child support, alimony, or other such financial obligations. Next, you’ll sign a sworn affidavit, which indicates that you are being honest and upfront about all information. Finally, you will go in front of a judge to get your name change approved or denied.

As long as there is no good reason to deny your name change, such as fraudulent or illegal motives, and as long as you are open and honest about all information, you should be able to get your last name legally changed without too much trouble. This will result in an official order to change your name, which you can then use to update your ID, drivers’ license, social security card, insurance policies, and everything else that your name is on. You will take this order to the Social Security Office and the DMV, and get the appropriate forms to make the changes you wish to make.

From there, you will start using your new name in everything that you do. You need to be consistent about this so that you are not later accused of changing your name for fraudulent or illegal purposes. You should update your name with all friends and family, social media, email, credit cards, your employer, your bank, and everything else in your life that your name is attached to.

To learn more about changing your last name or proving a common law marriage, whether you are in a straight or LGBTQ+ relationship, contact a determined Greenville, SC family law attorney at Robert Clark at Greenville Family Law for a consultation.

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