Does South Carolina recognize common law marriages?



UPDATED POST: Under certain circumstances, if you entered into such an arrangement before July 24, 2019, South Carolina will recognize a common law marriage. You are probably going to want, or need, to talk to an attorney about your situation sooner or later. Every situation is different. From a legal standpoint, the South Carolina Supreme Court says the following:

A common-law marriage is formed when two parties contract to be married. Johnson v. Johnson, 235 S.C. 542, 550, 112 S.E.2d 647, 651 (1960). No express contract is necessary; the agreement may be inferred from the circumstances. Id.; Kirby v. Kirby, 270 S.C. 137, 140, 241 S.E.2d 415, 416 (1978). The fact finder is to look for mutual assent: the intent of each party to be married to the other and a mutual understanding of each party’s intent. Consideration is the participation in the marriage. If these factual elements are present, then the court should find as a matter of law that a common-law marriage exists.
9 Further, when the proponent proves that the parties participated in “apparently matrimonial” cohabitation, and that while cohabiting the parties had a reputation in the community as being married, a rebuttable presumption arises that a common-law marriage was created. Jeanes v. Jeanes, 255 S.C. 161, 166–67, 177 S.E.2d 537, 539–40 (1970). This presumption may be overcome by “strong, cogent” evidence that the parties in fact never agreed to marry. Jeanes, 255 S.C. at 167, 177 S.E.2d at 540.
Callen v. Callen, 365 S.C. 618, 624, 620 S.E.2d 59, 62 (2005)
So you can see from the legal discussion above, a party trying to prove they are common law married has to jump over a number of hurdles. Often the evidence conflicts.
As of July 24, 2019, the South Carolina Supreme Court said that common law marriage will no longer be recognized. Here is a good summary.
If you have any questions or concerns, or want further information, please call me at (803) 929-0096, and I will be glad to discuss your situation.

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