Common Law Marriage

Common Law Marriage is a marriage not by official certification, but one that is proven by satisfying several requirements, including living together as husband and wife for a specified period of time (by particular state law), with the couple holding themselves out to the community as husband and wife.

Unlike some other states, Common Law Marriage is not allowed in North Carolina. A couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. You do not need legal action to end such a relationship, if it was created in North Carolina.

However, North Carolina does recognize as valid, common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met. As a result, legal action is needed to dissolve legal "common law" marriages performed in other states and foreign countries in compliance with their licensing and ceremonial regulations. The courts are available for determining the rights of parties now living in North Carolina.

As long as a couple lives together as husband and wife, the question of validity of their marriage is unlikely to arise. However, for purposes of inheritance or the benefits of pension plans or social security, a valid marriage is required.


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