Common Law Marriage is not recognized in North Carolina; however, “if the acts alleged to have created it took place in a state in which such a marriage is valid” North Carolina will recognize the marriage. State v. Alford, 298 N.C. 465, 473, 259 S.E.2d 242, 247 (1979).
Our neighbor, South Carolina, recognizes common law marriage. In South Carolina, when two (2) parties have a present intent to enter into a marriage contract, a common law marriage is formed. Barker v. Baker 330 S.C. 361, 370, 499 S.E.2d 503, 508 (Ct. App. 1998). Also, there must be a mutual agreement between the parties to become husband and wife. Johnson v. Johnson, 235 S.C. 542, 550, 112 S.E.2d 647, 651 (1960).
The issue of whether North Carolina would recognize a common law marriage from out-of-state has recently been brought to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. On December 4, 2012, the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard an appeal of an order entered in Iredell County District Court in Garrett v. Burris. In that case, the couple had lived in Texas before moving to North Carolina. Texas and South Carolina define common law marriage similarly. The couple never had a formal ceremony, but they referred to each other as husband and wife and bought rings to symbolize their marriage.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s order which denied the claim for absolute divorce. One of the main factors which led to the Court’s decision was that the couple referred to themselves as unmarried when they executed formal documents (deed, Release of Lien, etc.).
North Carolina focuses on factual details of each specific case to figure out whether it will recognize an out-of-state common law marriage.
If you, or someone you know, has questions regarding whether North Carolina would recognize their common law marriage, contact an attorney at Sodoma Law, P.C. for answers.
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE WAS PREPARED BY SODOMA LAW, P.C. AND IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT, IN ANY WAY, CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE.