South Carolina High Court unties common-law marriage knot

Family law

South Carolina High Court unties common-law marriage knot

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If you want to get married in South Carolina, you will need a valid marriage certificate.

The South Carolina Supreme Court struck down recognition of common-law marriage in a decision last week, report it Blog Legal Profession, the Post and courier, and WYFF. The decision applies to future relationships and not to people already in a common-law relationship.

Fewer than 10 states recognize common law marriage, according to the opinion. The most recent state to abolish common-law marriage is Alabama, which passed a law banning such marriages in 2016.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in a case involving an estranged Charleston couple. One of the parties stated that they had lived in a common-law relationship and that he was entitled to a division of property. The court said there was not enough evidence to show the couple had mutually agreed to marry.

“Our review in this case has prompted us to take stock of common-law marriage as a whole in South Carolina,” the court said. “We have concluded that the foundations of the institution have eroded over time and that the results it produces are unpredictable and often convoluted. Accordingly, we believe the time has come to join the overwhelming national trend and abolish it.

Common law marriage was adopted by some states at a time when America was sparsely populated and access to officials and ministers was limited. States also wanted to legitimize relationships and the children they produced, and prevent women from relying on the government for help.

Circumstances have since changed, the state Supreme Court said, citing a Pennsylvania decision. Access to civil and religious authorities for a ceremonial marriage is readily available. A woman is no longer thought to pose a danger of overwhelming the state with her support simply because she is single. And the marital status of the parents no longer determines the inheritance rights of the children.

Also, society is more accepting of out-of-wedlock relationships and children, the court said.

The court said the U.S. Supreme Court found marriage to be a fundamental constitutional right in Oberfell v. Hodges. The ruling “leads us to believe that the right to remain single is equally important,” the court said.

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