A new law passed the Alabama legislature and was signed by Governor Bentley on May 10th of this year that abolished Common law marriage in Alabama. If you are currently in a common law marriage do not fear, the new law ensures that existing marriages will be recognized. Alabama will consider any marriages to be valid if they are entered into by January 1st of 2017. After January 1, 2017, people will no longer be able to be married under the common law rules.
A common law marriage is a partnership in which each partner has the “capacity to be married” meaning they 1) are not currently married, 2) must be 19 or older, and 3) must be of sound mind. The couple must also have intent to marry meaning that the partnership is intended by both the husband and wife. The final requirement for a common law marriage is that the couple must hold themselves out as married to their family, friends, and community. Evidence of this could be that the couple casually refers to each other as husband and wife. The wife taking her husband’s last name, jointly filed tax return, joint bank accounts, or testimony given by friends and family that the couple are considered to be married are all considered evidence of a common law marriage.
The common law system of marriage is being abolished because it is inefficient, confusing, and can product a thicket of costly litigation in the event of a divorce. The system creates a great deal of uncertainty and can be very expensive to determine the status of a couple with so many variables of proof. This law had its merits in the past when it presented a great difficulty to travel to the court house or when the average person could not read a document. However, today it is relatively inexpensive to go to the court house and obtain a marriage license.