Can a Couple get Married without a Ceremony?

In South Carolina there are essentially two main ways for you to get into a marriage.  The first is the traditional “statutory marriage.”  That is where you go down to the probate court in the county where you live and get a marriage license with your significant other and have a marriage ceremony.

The other way for you to get married is what is called the “common law marriage.”  What I hear from prospective clients and friends about common law marriage is that they believe that you are automatically common law married with someone after you have lived with them for a certain amount of time.

The truth is, time does not play in to determining if you are common law married.  There are several factors that will determine whether you are married or not.

Here they are:

  • Cohabitation: You and your significant other must be living together to get common law married.
  • Hold Yourself Out as Husband and Wife: You and your significant other must be holding yourself out as husband and wife.  That means when you go out you introduce them as your husband/wife.
  • Both parties are over 16 years old
  • Neither party is currently married to another person.

If you are common law married, that is the same as being married.  You have the same rights, etc. as if you are married the traditional way.  If things don’t work out you would have to get a divorce.


  1. I sent a message earlier concerning getting a name change. According to this blog, my husband and I have the same rights as a couple that gets married with a license. However, this has not been the case. See, I desire to have my name changed to my husband’s, but the courts do not know what to do. Instead of them simply taking our affidavit and filing in the special record book for Common Law Marriages, they tell me that I need to pay to have my name changed or pay a lawyer to make them recognize our marriage. Is this treatment a violation of our rights? Is there a lawyer out there willing to help us? Please? We have been in this Common Law Marriage union for almost 2 years now. We have a child together. I am on record at his job as being his wife, with our church and our friends and family know it. We even created a document signed by witnesses of our declaration of marriage. We have done our part, and now we just need the courts to do their part. Thanks for any help you can offer. We would love to be a client if you can help us!

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