Crosson v. Crosson
688 So.2d 868 (1995)

  • Bruce and Barbara were married in a traditional ceremony with a legal marriage license.
    • Aka a solemnized statutory marriage.
  • A year later they got a formal divorce, which was finalized.
  • Two months later, Bruce asked Barbara to come back and be his wife again. She agreed.
    • This time, there was no ceremony or marriage license issued. However, they held themselves out to be married.
  • A year later, while Barbara was away on business, Bruce married another woman.
  • Barbara sued Bruce for a divorce, claiming that she was his common-law wife.
    • Bruce claimed that he never intended to be married to Barbara after their divorce.
  • The Trial Court found for Bruce. Barbara appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that there was no common-law marriage.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that there were three elements to a common-law marriage:
      • Capacity to enter a valid marriage.
      • Present, mutual agreement to enter into a marriage to the exclusion of other relationships.
      • Public recognition of the relationship as a marriage.
    • The Appellate Court found that the two had the capacity to marry.
      • They weren’t married to other people, or members of the same sex or anything that would have prevented them.
    • The Appellate Court found that based on an objective standard, the pair had a mutual agreement to be married.
      • The Court noted that Bruce’s subjective intent was insufficient to rebut the objective acts of the parties.
    • The Appellate Court found that pair had publicly presented themselves as being married.
      • They filed a joint tax return, wore wedding rings, and told people they were still married.
    • Bruce argued that they had discussed getting formally married, that he had dated other people behind Barbara’s back, and that he had obtained a valid marriage license to marry someone else. He suggested that these showed he was not in a common-law marriage, but the Court disagreed.
  • The basic point of this case is that once the three objective factors for a common-law marriage are met, there is a presumption of a common-law marriage. That presumption cannot be rebutted by the subjective intent of one of the parties. Assuming of course you are in a jurisdiction that permits common-law marriage.
    • This is similar to the jurisprudence related to pre-nuptial agreements.