Does PA recognize common law marriage?

Many people believe that if you live with someone for a number of years, then you are automatically common law married. This is not true for a common law marriage in Pennsylvania. Today, Pennsylvania requires that you have a marriage certificate to receive the benefits of marriage. PA used to recognize common law marriages, and if you assert that your common law marriage began before January 1, 2005 (the year in which common law marriage was abolished), then your common law marriage is “grandfathered in.”

If you assert that you have a common law marriage, then you have to prove the existence of your marriage to the Court to claim any benefits. You must prove that you exchanged verba in praesenti, words indicating a present intent to be married. The burden is on the party arguing for the marriage to prove that these words were exchanged, if both parties are able to testify, usually because of a PA Family Court divorce.

If both parties are not able to testify (usually because one party has died and the other party is trying to make an estates claim) then a rebuttable presumption of marriage is raised when a party is able to prove constant cohabitation and a reputation of marriage. If however the parties are both able to testify as to whether or not the words indicating the intent to get married were exchanged, then no presumption based on cohabitation and reputation may be raised.

Common law marriages, even before they were abolished in 2005, were disfavored by the Courts, and it is therefore a heavy burden to prove that you were in one. If you need to prove the existence of your pre-2005 common law marriage, contact our team of PA family law attorneys, who can help you determine whether your common law marriage can be grandfathered in, and how to best present your marriage claim.

To learn how our PA family law firm can help you during this difficult time, call us today at 412-281-9906, toll free at 1-844-VARI-LAW or send us an e-mail. One of our experienced Allegheny County divorce lawyers will be glad to offer you advice on what is in your best interests and that of any children in your family.

Our Pittsburgh Divorce Attorneys routinely accept cases in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, Westmoreland County, Lawrence County, and Mercer County. Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Western Pennsylvania counties including Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.

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