Law School Case Brief
Crosson v. Crosson - 668 So. 2d 868 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995)
While no ceremony or particular words are necessary, there are common elements which must be present, either explicitly expressed or implicitly inferred from the circumstances, in order for a common-law marriage to exist. Those elements are: 1) capacity; 2) present, mutual agreement to permanently enter the marriage relationship to the exclusion of all other relationships; and 3) public recognition of the relationship as a marriage and public assumption of marital duties and cohabitation.
Bruce Crosson and Barbara Crosson were married in February 1982 in a ceremonial marriage. The Crossons were divorced in June 1993. It is undisputed that after the divorce Mr. Crosson asked his former wife to come back and be his wife. Mrs. Crosson accepted the invitation to move back in with Mr. Crosson. They began living together in August 1993. Unknown to Mrs. Crosson, Mr. Crosson married another woman in October 1994. Upon discovering that fact, Mrs. Crosson immediately sued for a divorce from Mr. Crosson, contending that she was his common-law wife, and that he had committed adultery and bigamy, and that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The trial court found that Mrs. Crosson had failed to prove a common-law marriage and dismissed her complaint for divorce.
Was there a common law marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Crosson?
The court reversed, holding that the trial court's judgment that no marriage existed between the parties was against the great weight of the evidence. The court found that the facts showed capacity, present mutual agreement, public recognition of the relationship as a marriage, public assumption of marital duties, and cohabitation, and that these facts inferred the parties' consent to enter into a marriage. The discussions of a marriage ceremony, Mr. Crosson’s dating others, and his subsequent marriage to another were insufficient to rebut the facts suggesting a common law marriage.
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