Atlanta divorce attorneys are often asked about common law marriage. According to Georgia law, “no common-law marriage shall be entered into in this state on or after January 1, 1997.” OCGA §19-3-1.1. If a valid common-law marriage was entered into prior to January 1, 1997, it will continue to be recognized in Georgia. Id. There are three requirements for a valid common law marriage: the parties must be able to contract, must agree to live together as man and wife, and must consummate this agreement. Ga. Osteopathic Hosp. v. O’Neal, 198Ga. App 770, 778 (1991). In addition, “the fact of cohabitation is treated as essential, if not the main factor in establishing in this State a common-law marriage.” Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. Smith, 151 Ga. App. 270, 271 (1979). If all of these requirements were met BEFORE January 1, 1997, the common-law marriage will likely be recoginzed in Georgia.
Parties to a valid common law marriage entered into prior to January 1, 1997 may obtain a divorce and ask the court to award alimony equitable distribution, and/or child support. After January 1, 1997, you must have a valid ceremonial marriage in order for the marriage to be recognized.