A common law marriage is one in which a couple lives together and holds themselves out to be married to their friends and family members — without actually having an official ceremony or registering their marriage with the state. Common law marriages are only recognized in about one-quarter of U.S. states. North Carolina is not one of those states.
That being said, North Carolina does recognize legally valid common law marriages that arise out of other states. This raises an important question: How does common law divorce work in North Carolina?
Common Law Marriage and North Carolina Law
Under North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 51-1), only statutory marriages are recognized. It does not matter how long you live with your partner or how you present yourself to your friends and family members; you will not be married through common law if you live in North Carolina. You must go through the required procedures to be married in the eyes of the law.
Still, North Carolina will recognize all valid marriages from other states. This means that some common law marriages are in fact valid in the state of North Carolina. If you and your spouse were married via common law in another U.S. state that allows for this type of marriage, your common law marriage will still be valid even if you relocate to North Carolina.
Common Law Divorce Involves the Same Procedures as a Traditional Divorce
If you have a common law marriage, the courts are still going to be involved in your divorce. Some people have misconceptions about how common law divorce works. Since they got married without officially being sanctioned by the state or any religious institution, they believe that they can also separate without worrying about the law or the courts. This is false. Common law divorce follows the same procedures as traditional divorce.
To start, you will need to prove that you meet the state’s residency requirements. As North Carolina does not allow for common law marriage, your marriage, by definition, must have originated in another state. To be eligible to get a common law divorce within the state of North Carolina, you must prove that at least one spouse has lived in North Carolina for the past six months.
North Carolina’s no-fault divorce rules apply to any common law marriages. Neither party will be required to prove that their spouse did anything ‘wrong’ to be eligible to get a separation. Still, there are many complex legal issues that will need to be resolved. This could include everything from property division and alimony to child custody and child support. If you are getting divorced, it is crucial that you seek experienced legal guidance from a professional who can help you navigate the process and will be able to protect your rights.
Get Help From a North Carolina Divorce Attorney Today
At Speaks Family Law, our Wilmington family law attorneys are committed to providing strong, effective representation to our clients. To get help with your common law divorce, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team at 910-218-9682. With a law office in Wilmington, we serve communities throughout the region.
Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division
300 N. 3rd St. Suite 310
Wilmington, NC 28401