Common law marriage no longer an option for Shelby County residents

Shelby County residents are no longer able to establish a common law marriage after it was abolished in the state of Alabama, as of Jan. 1.

According to Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Hewitt “Sonny” Conwill, common law marriages that were claimed prior to Jan. 1 and have appropriate evidence will still be recognized by the state of Alabama.

“If you start living together now without being married, neither party can say they established a common law marriage,” Conwill said.

Common law marriage is defined as a marriage that is legally recognized without an official license.

“Basically, it was a system that allowed two people to start a marriage without a ceremony,” Conwill said.

To qualify as married in Alabama, couples had to meet four conditions:

–Both spouses had to have the mental capacity to understand the nature and responsibilities of a permanent relationship.

–Both spouses had to have made their relationship evident to others.

–Both spouses had to agree to a permanent relationship.

–The spouses must have consummated their relationship.

Conwill said the abolition of common law marriage will help courts handle domestic legal complications in the future.

“It simplifies and clarifies marriage, and you’re not left with court cases where the judge is trying to determine whether a couple is common law married or not,” Conwill said.

Conwill said he generally hears very few cases related to common law marriage, but the Shelby County courthouse will continue to handle them.

“It’s no different in Shelby County than it is all over the state. Alabama is one of the few states that still had common law marriage.” Conwill said. “I would say they would still have common law marriage cases until the ones that happened in December 2016 end.”