Alabama abolishes common-law marriage

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- If you want to become recognized as a married couple in Alabama, you will have to get a marriage license and exchange "I do's."

Alabama will not recognize new common-law marriages beginning Jan. 1. Common-law marriages entered into before then will continue to be recognized.

Common-law marriage refers to the legal protections of marriage extended to couples who live together as a married couple, but who haven't gotten a state marriage license.

Lawmakers voted earlier this year to prohibit the recognition of new common-law marriages.

An appellate judge last year urged lawmakers to make the change.

Civil Appeals Judge Terri Willingham Thomas said courts had been saddled with the task with trying to determine who should be considered a married couple and who shouldn't.