The Other Side of the Coin – Getting into It

Ah, irony, you always add so much humor to my life.  This past weekend I experienced something new.  I was asked to officiate a wedding.  Not because of my polished public speaking skills, friendship with the bride and groom or because I am an ordained minister.  I’m not.  Basically, it came down to I was the guy everyone knew who was a South Carolina Notary Public.  Romantic, huh?

So, while I was sick this weekend hoping I didn’t mess up this couple’s wedding day and hoping they didn’t find out my days were spent as a divorce lawyer, I thought I should write a quick post about how you get into this thing called marriage.

In South Carolina there are two ways: (1) the statutory marriage by marriage license and (2) the common law marriage.  Here’s a quick run down of both:

The Statutory Marriage: Marriage License

Everyone is familiar with this way of getting married.  In fact, most people have been to at least one wedding and many have been in several weddings (as a groomsman or bridesmaid, of course).  This is where you stroll down to your county’s probate court and fill out a marriage license application.  Wait 24 hours and return to pick up your completed license that will be signed by you and your wedding officiant after your ceremony.

In order to get married in this manner in South Carolina you must be apply for a marriage license, have a ceremony performed by a minister of the Gospel, Jewish rabbi, or officer authorized to administer oaths in South Carolina such as a notary public.

There are a few rules about who can get married in South Carolina as found in S. C. Code § 20-1-10 and some following sections:

  • The law prohibits those closely related by blood or marriage to marry one another.
  • Both parties must be mentally competent to marry one another so they can have the requisite intent to marry.
  • You can’t get married when you are currently married to someone else.  This is known as bigamy.
  • You must be at least 16 years old.
  • Same sex marriages are not allowed in South Carolina.

The Common Law Marriage

“Yes,” is the answer to your first question.  Common law marriage is still alive and kicking in South Carolina.  And most times causing huge problems and lawsuits. A common law marriage is where the couple is married because of their actions/lifestyle, not because they filed any legal paperwork or had a ceremony.  The paperwork and ceremony are not required in this case.

After the first question, the second one is, “how long do we have to live together before we are considered to be common law married.”  The answer is that there is no set time period for living together to be common law married.  Basically, you prove that both parties have an actual and mutual agreement to live publicly together as husband and wife.  Rogers v. Herron, 108 S.C. 271,  276 (1954).  There are several factors that when combined prove the intention to be common law married.  Here are the factors that must be proven for a common law marriage to be recognized:

  • Cohabitation with one another.
  • Hold yourself out as husband and wife.  This can be done by introducing each other as your husband/wife or by filing joint income taxes together and other things like this.
  • That there are no impediments such as age (under 16) or being currently married to another person.

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