Tuesday, July 30, 2019
The South Carolina Supreme Court has imposed the death penalty on the institution of common law marriage going forward in the Palmetto state.
Our review in this case has prompted us to take stock of common-law marriage as a whole in South Carolina. We have concluded the institution's foundations have eroded with the passage of time, and the outcomes it produces are unpredictable and often convoluted. Accordingly, we believe the time has come to join the overwhelming national trend and abolish it. Therefore, from this date forward—that is, purely prospectively—parties may no longer enter into a valid marriage in South Carolina without a license. Consistent with our findings regarding the modern applicability of common-law marriage rationales, we also take this opportunity to refine the test courts are to employ henceforth.
Nevertheless, the case before us remains. We do not believe Stone demonstrated the mutual assent required to prove a common-law marriage, and as a result, we hold the parties were not married and reverse the family court on the merits and as to the issue of attorney's fees.