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Common Law Marriages Abolished After January 2005

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Common Law Marriages are no longer valid in Pennsylvania after January 2005

By Attorney Nichole A. Collins, Family Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania was one of the last states to abolish common law marriage. Common law marriages contracted prior to January 2, 2005 remain valid. Pennsylvania enacted the statute, which provides as follows:

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 1103. "Common-law marriage- No common-law marriage contracted after January 1, 2005, shall be valid. Nothing in this part shall be deemed or taken to render any common-law marriage otherwise lawful and contracted on or before January 1, 2005, invalid."

Common law marriages have been tolerated but not encouraged because they are difficult to regulate and to prove and because, like all oral contracts, they provide "a fruitful source of perjury and fraud." The proponent of a common law marriage bears a "heavy" burden and the claim of marriage is reviewed with "great scrutiny." The marriage must be established by clear and convincing evidence. Remarriage by common law following a divorce may be entitled to favored treatment rather than mere tolerance. Where a dispute arises only after the death of one of the parties, the purported marriage must be scrutinized carefully, particularly where a common law marriage is asserted to support a claim against the estate. A party seeking to exercise a spouse's election against a will is not competent to testify in support of a claim of common law marriage. Questions of common law marriage sometimes arise in criminal cases when the issue of marriage is determinative of privilege or prisoners' rights.

If you have questions about Common Law Marriage, divorce, separation or any other family law questions, contact us at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC for a free phone consult. Call toll free or email us today.

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Moving to a new country is one of life's biggest events. Whether one is relocating to take up a temporary work assignment, or permanently immigrating, one's spouse (or life partner) is normally essential to the equation and will often play a vital supporting role in the process.

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