South Carolina is one of the last states to recognize common law marriages. A common law marriage is a marriage where there was no marriage ceremony, no marriage license, or both, but the couple is still considered to be husband and wife. There is a misconception or "urban legend" that you can be common law married to someone just by living with them for a certain period of time. This, of course, is false. In order to be considered common law married in South Carolina, the courts look at intent. If two people hold themselves out to the rest of the world as being married, then the court will recognize them as married. As a family court attorney, I will present tax records, bank records, health insurance applications, and holiday cards in order to prove a common law marriage. Also, if someone introduces their significant other as "my wife" or "my husband" on a consistent basis, they may be considered by the courts to be married even though they never had a wedding ceremony.
If a court considers two people to be common law married, then all other laws that apply to legally married males and females will apply. This could have a great impact in a divorce or estate case. Thus, if you are involved with someone and do not intend for them to be considered your spouse, take proper precaution not to present them on paper or in public as your husband or wife.
-Rhett D. Burney