2020 Georgia Code
Title 19 - Domestic Relations
Chapter 3 - Marriage Generally
Article 1 - General Provisions
§ 19-3-1.1. Common-Law Marriage; Effectiveness

Universal Citation: GA Code § 19-3-1.1 (2020)

No common-law marriage shall be entered into in this state on or after January 1, 1997. Otherwise valid common-law marriages entered into prior to January 1, 1997, shall not be affected by this Code section and shall continue to be recognized in this state.

(Code 1981, §19-3-1.1, enacted by Ga. L. 1996, p. 1414, § 1.)

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 1996, p. 1414, § 2, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "The Department of Human Resources is authorized and directed to implement a state-wide education program through the broadcast and print media to inform state residents regarding the Code section enacted by this Act and the elements of a valid common-law marriage."

Law reviews.

- For annual survey article discussing wills, trusts and administration of estates, see 52 Mercer L. Rev. 481 (2000). For article, "Marriage, Death and Taxes: The Estate Planning Impact of Windsor and Obergefell on Georgia's Same Sex Spouses," see 21 Ga. St. Bar. J. 9 (Oct. 2015). For article, "Cohabitation Worldwide Today," see 35 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 299 (2019).


Application to termination proceedings.

- Trial court did not err in denying a father's motion to continue a termination hearing in order for the father to obtain income tax returns that would have shown that the father filed joint tax returns with the mother, thereby showing that they had a common law marriage, because, inter alia, correspondence from the IRS noted that records before January 1, 1997 were likely destroyed and tax records dated after January 1, 1997 would not have been probative of a common law marriage as common law marriages could no longer have been created after that date. In the Interest of D.C., 279 Ga. App. 889, 632 S.E.2d 744 (2006).

No common law marriage found.

- There was evidence supporting the finding that an administrator and a decedent were not common-law spouses. The couple separated numerous times, and the administrator had a boyfriend during one separation, filed tax returns as a single person, and did not list the decedent as the father on her daughter's birth certificate or give her his last name; furthermore, the administrator was the only person who testified in support of her common-law marriage, while the remaining two witnesses testified that neither the administrator nor the decedent held themselves out as husband and wife. In re Estate of Smith, 298 Ga. App. 201, 679 S.E.2d 760 (2009).

Appellant and the decedent did not have a common law marriage despite their long cohabitation and the appellant's testimony that they had exchanged rings; the decedent's sister and brother testified that the decedent never referred to the appellant as the decedent's wife, never mentioned the private vows, and specifically denied that they were married. Further, the couple separated and had relationships with other people at times. In re Estate of O'Connell, 354 Ga. App. 333, 840 S.E.2d 730 (2020).

Evidence of common law marriage.

- Trial court did not err in admitting evidence regarding the conduct of a common law husband and a common law wife after moving to Georgia because although the parties' cohabitation and public recognition of their marriage in Georgia could not establish a common-law marriage, those facts could corroborate other evidence of a prior agreement to marry entered into in Alabama. Norman v. Ault, 287 Ga. 324, 695 S.E.2d 633 (2010).

Common law marriage found.

- Jury was authorized to conclude that a common law marriage existed between a common law husband and a common law wife because the evidence satisfied enough of the criteria generally indicative of public recognition to determine that the husband assented to the marriage in another state; three years after the husband's divorce, the wife began living in Alabama in the same home as him, sharing a bedroom, and doing housework, the parties would tell people that the other was his or her spouse, and the husband would tell the wife all the time that "in God's eyes, you are my wife," the husband had sexual relations only with the wife, and before the parties moved to Georgia, the husband executed a deed filed in Alabama conveying property to himself, his daughter, and his wife. Norman v. Ault, 287 Ga. 324, 695 S.E.2d 633 (2010).

Unable to prove common law marriage in workers' compensation case.

- Although a claimant seeking workers' compensation dependent benefits under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-13 was living with and dependent on the deceased employee at the time of the employee's death from a work injury, they were not married, either ceremonially or by common law, and the claimant was therefore not entitled to recover benefits arising out of that living arrangement. The claimant could not establish a common law marriage from an arrangement that began in 2002, after common law marriage was abolished by O.C.G.A. § 19-3-1.1. Sanchez v. Carter, 343 Ga. App. 187, 806 S.E.2d 638 (2017), cert. denied, No. S18C0408, 2018 Ga. LEXIS 346 (Ga. 2018).

Cited in Field v. Massey, 232 Ga. App. 524, 502 S.E.2d 349 (1998); King v. Lusk, 280 Ga. App. 40, 633 S.E.2d 350 (2006).

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