More than 30 years ago, the Georgia Satellites released a song about a marriage ultimatum: “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” The lyrics document the struggle between the singer and his lover over the terms of their relationship. We don’t know how that story ends; whether the couple married or split up.
The song came to mind as I was reviewing the evidence in the divorce case of a common law marriage here in Mobile County, Alabama. She says they were married. He says they weren’t. She put up a great deal of evidence. For more than sixteen years, they lived together, had joint bank accounts, shared the duties and responsibilities of raising the children each one brought to the relationship. He said, “I never intended to be married to her.” She could produce no evidence that he had ever introduced her as his wife in any capacity. There were no joint tax returns, no forms where she was listed as his wife.
Ultimately the Judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence of a common law marriage. The Wife is now left with no legal recourse and nothing to show for her contributions to the relationship. Here’s the lesson for any man or woman in Alabama who may think they are in a common law marriage: FORCE THE ISSUE. Common law marriage was abolished in Alabama as a of January 2017, but the law upholds common law marriages that existed prior to that, if you can prove that one did, in fact, exist.
Here’s a short primer on common law marriage from our friends in North Alabama:
Marriage is a legal status that provides benefits and responsibilities to the parties. Don’t be that person who finds out, sixteen years after the fact, that you gave up part of your life to someone who can walk away without consequence. Contact me if you need help with this: (251)445-0891, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.