Common Law Marriage – Fact or Fiction?


q&aObermayer 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.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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