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N Cal Atty
N Cal Atty, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 9415
Experience:  attorney at self
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I found out about a year after my husband's death that

Customer Question

I found out about a year after my husband's death that we were not legally married. This was thirteen years ago. I am near retirement. Can I legally secure any of his social security benefits? How do I answer questions about my marital status? Am I a widow
or single? Can I change my name? It seems false to continue to use it? Should I speak to a local attorney? What specialty would be of help to me?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  N Cal Atty replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your question.
Why do you think you were not legally married?
In which States did you reside while you thought that you were married?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I learned from his son that his mother and his father's divorce did not become final until a year after his father and I "married". I requested my lawyer get a copy of this information from Maryland. When the information came, I saw the document. I live in South Carolina.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I felt so betrayed. I have gone on with my life but there are often questions that come up now that I still have to deal with, like social security and retirement.
Expert:  N Cal Atty replied 2 years ago.
My opinion is that you are a widow because you had a valid common law marriage, see
I hope this information is helpful.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I don't believe that's true. I've had someone say as much. I was talking with someone at an agency. According to them, it would have to have been an agreement at the outset. It was not. We were married in a church service.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have not checked the reference yet, but I will. Who could I consult locally? An attorney with which specialty?
Expert:  N Cal Atty replied 2 years ago.
You can get a free consultation from some of the family law attorneys listed by location at
You lived together after he was divorced, and told people that you were married prior to 2011. That is enough to establish a common law marriage. See also
The first link I posted states:
"A South Carolina marriage can be formed in as little as one night. A marriage was found where evidence showed that the parties lived together for two years, listed themselves as husband and wife in the telephone directory and on insurance and income tax forms. Although both parties to the marriage testified that they did not live together as husband and wife, the court still held that a marriage existed. Jeanes v. Jeanes, 255 S.C. 161, 177 S.E.2d 537 (S.C. 1970)"