Jennings v. Hurt

160 A.D.2d 576, 554 N.Y.S.2d 220 (App. Div. 1990)



To establish a common-law marriage in South Carolina, the proponent must establish an intention on the part of both parties to enter into a marriage contract. The mutual agreement necessary to create such a marriage must be conveyed with such a demonstration of intent and with such clarity on the part of the parties that marriage does not creep up on either of them and catch them unawares. One cannot be married unwittingly or accidentally.


The wife commenced an action against the husband, arguing that they had entered into a common-law marriage by holding themselves out as husband and wife in South Carolina. The trial court denied the wife's motion for leave to amend her complaint and found, after a non-jury trial, that the parties had not entered into a common-law marriage. The wife appealed the judgment.


Did the court err in finding that no common law marriage existed?




The trial court's order was affirmed. The court held that the evidence demonstrated that the parties never held themselves out as being married nor were they perceived as husband and wife. Further, there was not a mutual intent nor an agreement to enter into a marriage contract. Thus, the record failed to support the common-law marriage. The trial court also properly denied the wife's motion for leave to amend her complaint to allege new causes of action as those causes of action were insufficient as a matter of law. 

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