Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriage?


A common law marriage exists when a couple has lived together for a period of time and presents themselves to their community as “married”. The key distinction of a common law marriage, however, is that the couple never received a marriage license or held a formal marriage ceremony.

A few states still recognize common law marriages as legally valid, but the vast majority of states no longer do recognize a marriage unless a marriage license can be paired with the couple’s claim to be married.

Florida joins the states that do not recognize common law marriages today, with two important exceptions.


Florida’s legal stance on common law marriage is short and to the point. According to Section 741.211 of The 2016 Florida Statutes, “no common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968 shall be valid.”

The reason why common law marriages before 1968 are valid is because Florida recognized common law marriages until that date. As such, older couples who married before 1968 are still recognized by Florida state law.

There is one other exception that will allow couples in a common law marriage to be legally recognized in Florida. That exception, specifically, exists for couples who were common law married in one of the few states that still recognize a common law marriage. Currently, 10 states and the District of Columbia legally recognize common law marriage.

As a general rule, couples who are legally married based on the laws of one state will still have their marriage legally recognized if they move to another state. The state of Florida adheres to this rule as well.

Couples who enter into a common law marriage in a common law marriage state prior to moving to Florida will have their marriage recognized by the state. Similarly, Florida couples who entered into a common law marriage before 1968 will have their marriage recognized by other states if they move.

For current cohabitating couples in Florida, however, there is no way to have a common law marriage legally recognized. If you want to make sure your marriage is legally binding, a Florida marriage license will be required.

This important step toward a legally valid marriage will provide legal benefits that unmarried cohabitating couples cannot enjoy, such as:

  • The right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse
  • The right to a formal divorce proceeding
  • The ability to inherit spousal property


For more information about legally valid marriages in the state of Florida, contact The McKinney Law Group, your Tampa Divorce Attorney, for a legal consultation.

If you have questions regarding Tampa family law, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]