Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Common Law Marriage & Does Alabama Need It?

Recent reports on the Christopher Rich murder trial have brought up the question of common law marriage in this state. How "common" is it? Below is a list of states that recognize such a union:

Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma's laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Washington, D.C.

As you can see, the list is diminishing. Here in Alabama, just what constitutes a common-law marriage? There are three requirements for such a marriage to be valid:

The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) capacity; (2) an agreement to be husband and wife; and (3) consummation of the marital relationship.

Using these criteria, Christopher Rich and his victim Hollie Newbury were never married since they never agreed to be husband and wife. We have read of miscreants using the common-law principal to their advantage. When the infamous Tommy Arthur murdered his girlfriend's sister, he claimed a common-law marriage that allowed his girlfriend, a witness to the crime, immunity from testifying. How sad that any woman would prefer Tommy Arthur over her own sister.

Is it time for Alabama to join a growing number of states in outlawing this archaic institution? We say yes. We welcome opposing view points...


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