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Common Law marriage, PA


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#1 Ana1350

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 06:10 AM

If a couple has been together for the last ten years, residing in the same residence and they have children together, are they considered as being in a common law marriage even if no  marriage ceremony took  place or marriage certificate signed?


What is the exact definition of a common law marriage and the  legal consequences in PA.


In PA how long  does a couple have to live in the same residence to be considered in a common law marriage?


If they were not aware of this law does it make any difference and can they appeal it, assuming my information that if two people co-habitate for an X amount of years  ( NOT sure how many) and have children together are automatically in a common law marriage.


Thank you.


 



#2 Ted_from_Texas

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 06:24 AM

How long you live together is irrelevant.  No amount of cohabitation can constitute a common-law marriage in Pennsylvania or any other state.  Pennsylvania will only recognize a common-law marriage if it was formed before January 1, 2005.


I can't cite Pennsylvania's common-law marriage statutes in particular, but generally in order to form a common-law marriage you must as a minimum (1) agree with your partner that you are married and (2) hold yourself out to the community as a married couple.  There's nothing "automatic" about it.  Therefore, if you weren't referring to each other as man and wife before 2005, you don't have a valid common-law marriage.


Consult local counsel.



#3 Fallen

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 06:39 AM

You don't say what the issue is or why it's coming up, but living together and having kids together doesn't make you married.  Agreeing that you are married to each other and taking each other as husband and wife is what would make you married (doesn't have to be a "ceremony" as such; obviously, if you got a marriage certificate issued, that implies that a third party of some kind, government entity or no issued a marriage certificate). 


This isn't something you can "appeal" and turn the clock back on just because you now find out that you would/could have been considered married if only you'd agreed that you were married to each other.  Esp. if it's a matter of you two breaking up and now one of you wants to go after X-Y-Z and claim there was a marriage made as of no later than December 31, 2004 in PA (after which point PA decided it'd no longer allow formation of common law marriages).  If one of you wanted to deny that you were married now, the other would need to have (preferably disinterested) witnesses that you've held yourselves out as husband and wife since at least the end of 2004.  If the one who wants to deny it can't offset those witnesses with ones that say "uhm, no, I never heard either of them refer to the other as spouse/husband/wife," the person might produce tax returns where (s)he filed as a single individual, never did this/that/the other (say, perhaps the woman starting to go by the man's last name).


"In PA how long  does a couple have to live in the same residence to be considered in a common law marriage?"

Again, living together doesn't make you married.  You could live together your entire adult lives and still not be married.


 


I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#4 pg1067

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 07:11 AM

Ana1350 said...


If a couple has been together for the last ten years, residing in the same residence and they have children together, are they considered as being in a common law marriage even if no  marriage ceremony took  place or marriage certificate signed?



This is quite an odd question, and it suggests that, while you have heard the term "common law marriage," you really have no idea what it means.  First, obviously, if there was a ceremony and a marriage certificate, there wouldn't be a common law marriage.  Second, it's necessary to point out that Pennsylvania has not allowed for the formation of common law marriages within its borders since January 1, 2005.  Third, the existence of a common law marriage depends, most importantly, on a mutual intent to be married.  Plenty of unmarried couples live together; plenty of unmarried couples have kids together; plenty of unmarried couples do both of those things.  Thus, you have provided no relevant information that would allow us to determine whether the two persons in question do or don't have a common law marriage.


Ana1350 said...

What is the exact definition of a common law marriage and the  legal consequences in PA.

When they were allowed, common law marriages were formed by the mutual intent of the parties to be married.  Typically, that intent is proven by evidence that the couple cohabitated (although no particular length of time was required) and held themselves out to friends, family, and the general public as being married.  One common piece of evidence would be a joint tax return that indicates that the filers are married and filing jointly.  The legal consequences were/are the same as with a ceremonial marriage.


Ana1350 said...


In PA how long  does a couple have to live in the same residence to be considered in a common law marriage?



As noted, this is irrelevant.


Ana1350 said...

If they were not aware of this law does it make any difference

If they intended to be married and held themselves out to the world as being married, their ignorance of the law is irrelevant.  If they had no such intention, then their ignorance is still irrelevant.  However, a couple cannot accidentally form a common law marriage.


Ana1350 said...

can they appeal it

Appeal what?  Court judgments can be appealed.  If, at some point, the parties to a common law marriage mutually decide that they weren't really married and they go their separate ways, chances are that no one's going to say boo.  However, if one of them later changes his/her mind and seeks a divorce (and, e.g., alimony and/or child support), that's a possibility.  Moreover, if one of them later marries someone else, it would be bigamy, and the new spouse could seek to have the marriage annuled by proving the prior common law marriage.


Ana1350 said...

assuming my information that if two people co-habitate for an X amount of years  ( NOT sure how many) and have children together are automatically in a common law marriage.

As I know by now, this is a bad assumption.



#5 norma13

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 11:07 AM

The reason I asked the question was because I did NOT KNOW.

You are providing a valuable service and excellent information but who is helped by remarks such as "odd question" or "You may have heard but.. etc"?
Does it make someone feel better that I felt inferior?
Why spoil a good response by such remarks? I was grateful. Now I am bitter.


#6 pg1067

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 03:07 AM

Norma13 said...

The reason I asked the question was because I did NOT KNOW.

Since you're not the original poster (unless you're posting under multiple screen names), I'm not sure what this means.  I would also point out that some of the questions and statements in the original post were based on certain premises.


Norma13 said...

who is helped by remarks such as "odd question" or "You may have heard but.. etc"?

I have no idea.  Not every word in every sentence I type is intended to be "helpful."  Some words exist simply to provide context or flavor.


Norma13 said...

Does it make someone feel better that I felt inferior?

Your past feelings have no effect on me whatsoever (particularly since I can't really know how some anonymous person feels).


Norma13 said...


Why spoil a good response by such remarks? I was grateful. Now I am bitter.



I disagree that the remarks in question "spoil[ed]" the response.  If you want to emphasize how you feel about a couple of isolated comments over the substance of the response as a whole, that's your business.  I cannot account for your feelings.




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