If you are in a long-term relationship that is about to end or has ended, you may have some unwelcome realizations, including that the life you built together has very little legal protection. You both may have held yourselves out as married, bought housing together, purchased vehicles together, etc., but if you are not legally married, you do not have marriage property division rights.
This makes some wonder whether they can get a common law divorce in North Carolina.
Common law marriage, generally
In some states, common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage that is created not by a marriage license or ceremony. Instead, it is created through mutual consent, cohabitation and when couples held themselves out as married.
Moreover, where it is legal, a common law divorce is generally treated as a traditional divorce with all the accompanying rights and obligations.
Common law marriages have largely fallen out of favor and are not legal in very many states these days. And, even where they are allowed, the rules to create one are strict.
Can I get a common law divorce in North Carolina?
The first question is whether common law marriage is allowed in our state before we explore common law divorce. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on where you are at the end of your relationship, North Carolina does not legally recognize common law marriage, and as a result, it also does not recognize common law divorce.
The common law marriage exception
While our state does not recognize it, if you can establish common law marriage from a state that does recognize common law marriage, our state acknowledges that marriage and will grant you a formal divorce in our state. This is the one exception to common law marriage here, but it requires litigation on the issue.
You still have options
If you are building your life with someone else, and one or both of you does not want to marry, then, you should still protect your rights. This can be done through estate planning tools (trusts, wills, etc.), family law (cohabitation agreements), etc. On the other hand, if your relationship is already over, then you may have to sue your ex-spouse.