Common Law Marriage – Fact or Fiction?

June 10, 2014 | By Stephanie H. Winegrad

Obermayer family law attorney Stephanie Winegrad answers questions about common law marriage in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In Pennsylvania you can no longer enter into a common law marriage?

FACT:  In 2005, Pennsylvania abolished common law marriages prospectively.  Common law marriages entered prior to 2005 are still valid.                                    

We have lived together for 7 years so we have a common law marriage?

FICTION:  There is no minimum time period required to establish a common law marriage.  You could have a common law marriage for one day.

We hold ourselves out to the community as husband and wife so we have a common law marriage?

FICTION:  To establish a common law marriage the parties must have a present intent to marry as evidenced by words of present intent.  “You are my husband.”  “You are my wife.” An engagement or a promise to marry in the future does not establish a common law marriage.

In New Jersey you can no longer enter into a common law marriage?

FACT:   New Jersey abolished common law marriages in 1939 so the couple would have to be over 90 to have a valid common law marriage today.

About the Authors

Stephanie Winegrad - Conshohocken family law attorney

Stephanie H. Winegrad

Partner

Conshohocken Family Law Attorney Stephanie is a partner in the firm’s Family Law practice group, and has more than 20 years of experience in family law matters. As a highly skilled and...

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