Marriage Laws Defined: What is Okay in South Carolina?

If you are considering a divorce in South Carolina, you are not alone.

You may be surprised to learn that between 40 and 50% of couples in the United States will divorce. 

But before you decide on divorce, you may need to get more information on marriage in general. 

Even if a marriage is long-standing, it can still be invalid in the eyes of the court. Understanding marriage laws is one of the first steps in divorce.

Since South Carolina is one of the few states that allow common law marriages, some confusion exists on what constitutes a marriage.

Here is what’s considered not okay or invalid in a marriage.

Engagements and Common Law

Most people believe that if a couple lived together for some time, they are as good as married under common law. But common law marriages require more than cohabitation.

Common law marriages are invalid unless they prove a desire by both parties to be married. An example could be the result of filing tax returns as “married.”

But one way a common law marriage could be invalidated is with an engagement. An engagement indicates the parties were planning on getting married at a later date. 

Those plans mean the couple acknowledges they were not married yet. Just an engagement with no formal wedding may declare a common law marriage invalid.

Same-Sex Does Not Matter

If you are in a long-term same-sex relationship, your marriage may be legal for longer than you think. Just because same-sex marriage has only been legal in South Carolina since 2014, it does not affect the length of a common law marriage.

A judge recently ruled that a same-sex couple had a 30-year common law marriage.


If you can prove your mate was married when you married, your marriage will be declared invalid. 

You can also prove bigamy in some cases by showing that your mate was cohabitating with someone else, had children in another relationship, or other circumstances. 

Not Able to Enter a Contract

If one of the persons married is deemed not legally able to enter a contract, then the marriage is invalid. Marriage laws require the parties to be mentally competent to enter a contract.

This also applies to people who are too young to be married in the eyes of the courts. Any condition that prohibits a contract can declare a marriage invalid.  

Do You Understand South Carolina Marriage Laws?

If you have any question at all about marriage laws and how they apply to your relationship, it is important to have expert help.

With the best insight into your relationship, you can decide between invalidating a marriage and filing for divorce. Plus, you can pursue the best strategy to protect you and your loved ones. 

While legal marriages require a divorce to dissolve, the same is not true for all relationships. The best route for individuals who share children and assets is not always the same.

At Indigo Family Law, we will help you understand your specific case. While you’re at it, learn more about navigating custody issues in the best possible way.  

Contact Indigo Family Law

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