One of the most common questions from couples living together in the state of Georgia is, “How many years is considered common law marriage in Georgia?” The straightforward answer is that there is no specific number of years that defines a common law marriage in Georgia. This is because as of January 1, 1997, Georgia ceased to recognize common law marriages.
However, the state will acknowledge common law marriages established before this date or those formed in other states where common law marriage is still valid.
In this post, we’ll take a deeper look into common law and cohabitation law as it applies to Georgia.
Common Law Marriage Georgia
In Georgia, common law marriages have not been recognized since January 1, 1997. This means that couples who cohabit and consider themselves as married but have not gone through a formal marriage ceremony after this date do not have a legally recognized marriage in Georgia.
However, if you established a common law marriage in Georgia prior to 1997, or if you have a valid common law marriage from another state, Georgia will recognize your marriage. This means if your relationship ends, you can seek a divorce in Georgia.
Common Law Marriage in Georgia Before 1997
Before 1997, common law marriage in Georgia was recognized if it met four criteria. These criteria did not specify a certain number of years of cohabitation but rather focused on the nature of the relationship between the couple.
- The couple must be heterosexual and living together.
- The couple had to live together for a significant period, though there was no defined duration.
- The couple must have intended to get married at some point.
- The couple held themselves out as married, meaning they referred to each other as husband and wife, possibly shared the same last name, and were generally perceived as a married couple by their community.
Cohabitation Laws in Georgia
Cohabitation laws in Georgia don’t really exist. There are no protections for couples living together other than what you would normally see in a roommate or family living situation.
That being said, it is possible to have a contract of rights and responsibilities that you both agree to follow while you cohabitate. However, this contract will not be given the same sort of protection that you see in a divorce, since the couple was never married.
Additionally, if the cohabiting couple has a child together, the unwed father and mother laws of Georgia apply – only the mother has rights to the child unless and until the father is legitimated (legally declared to be the father). The only right the father has until that time is to pay child support.
Make sure you are informed and protected to the best extent possible before cohabitating with your significant other.
Is Georgia a Common Law Property State?
Georgia is not a common law property state. In fact, it is an “equitable distribution” state.
This means that in the event of a divorce, all marital property is not necessarily divided equally, but rather in a manner that the court considers fair or equitable.
Common Law Marriage States
While Georgia does not recognize common law marriage, several states do. These include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, among others.
Each of these states has its own specific criteria for what constitutes a common law marriage, and some require a certain period of cohabitation.
If you have established a common law marriage in any of these states, Georgia will recognize your marriage.
While the number of years of cohabitation does not establish a common law marriage in Georgia, understanding the legal implications of your relationship status is crucial.
Whether you are cohabiting, considering a common law marriage from another state, or inquiring about responsibilities towards children, knowing your rights and obligations can help you navigate the complexities of family law in Georgia.