While it is common for couples to live together without being officially married, doing so was actually illegal in Florida until 2016. That is the year when the Florida Legislature repealed a long-standing – but rarely enforced – law that made it illegal for unwed couples to live together.
Common-law marriage is when a couple lives together for a certain period but never obtains a marriage license (so they are never considered formally married). The following states have laws that officially establish common-law marriage:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Under Florida Statute, a common-law marriage is valid only if entered into before January 1, 1968, or if the couple was married under the common-law marriage statute of a recognizing state (listed above).
You cannot initiate the divorce of a common-law marriage in Florida (unless entered into before 1968). Instead, you must terminate the common-law marriage in the state that sanctioned it.
Rights of married couples
In Florida, married couples have different legal rights than unmarried couples, regardless of how long they have lived together. Married couples share marital assets and debts, inherit property from a spouse, and fairly divide their property if divorced, among other rights not afforded to unmarried couples.
You must possess a marriage license to be officially married in Florida. Marriage licenses are issued by the clerk of a circuit or county court judge and are valid for 60 days after the date of issuance. You can apply for a marriage license in any county in Florida, even if you do not get married in that county.
Legal age of consent
Two people who are both at least 18 years old can get married without a parent’s consent. However, a person at least 17 years old may get a marriage license with written parental consent and if the older party to the marriage is no more than two years older than the younger intended spouse. For more information on the legal age of consent, click here.
Marriage ceremonies can legally be performed in Florida by ordained ministers of any church, ordained clergy, judges, clerks of the circuit court, and Florida notaries public.
Changing your name
There is no Florida law requiring a person to take their spouse’s last name (legally referred to as the surname) upon marriage. If one person decides to take their spouse’s surname, then they should change their name on the following documents: Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, voter registration, credit cards, and bank accounts. They should also inform anyone else with whom they do business or hold a license.
Same-sex marriages are legal in Florida. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages that were validly performed in other jurisdictions.