You live with someone for seven years, holding yourselves out as Mr. and Mrs., makes it legal, right? No. What about 10 years, 20 years? Nope.
In 1956 the Mississippi legislature ended Common Law Marriage in Mississippi, or at least NEW Common Law Marriages within the State. Mississippi Code § 93-1-15 was passed that required a License and solemnization for a valid marriage.
(1) No marriage contracted after April 5, 1956 shall be valid unless the contracting parties shall have obtained a marriage license … and …shall have been performed …solemniz[ation]. Failure in any case to comply with both prerequisites …shall render the purported marriage absolutely void and any children born as a result thereof illegitimate.
(2) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to affect the validity of any marriage, either ceremonial or common law, contracted prior to April 5, 1956.
Now if your Common Law Marriage was valid prior to 1956 in Mississippi and you and the Mrs. are still alive and together, then your marriage is valid. Interestingly, if you have a valid Common Law Marriage from another state Mississippi will also recognize that. 16 states still recognize Common Law Marriage according to Find Law and in the 1980’s Mississippi recognized a Common Law Marriage of a couple from Georgia. They eventually relocated to Mississippi and the wife sought and was granted a divorce. George v. George, 389 So.2d 1389 (Miss. 1980).
Don’t count on a Common Law Marriage for marital purposes, and don’t believe your “spouse” if they tell you you’re married and you have not followed the State licensure requirements.
Matthew is a family law attorney and was married using the post 1956 Mississippi methods.
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