Contrary to popular belief, only a few states recognize common law marriages. Many people still assume that by living together for a period and holding themselves out as man and wife, they attain the rights of being married. Often people think the magic number of years is seven.
The reality is that New York does not recognize common law marriage. To have a valid marriage in New York, you need to marry formally under the eyes of the law. Parties who cohabit or live together without a church or civil ceremony cannot generally attain the rights that a married couple does upon divorce.
Children born out of wedlock have the right to support by both parents, but spousal support will not be awarded, nor does either party have a clear claim to equitable distribution of assets. Without a marriage license, you are not legally entitled to inherit if your partner dies.
One way to have a common law marriage recognized is via the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. If a couple lives in a non-common law state such as New York, but visits a common law state and follows the requirements for a common law marriage in that state, and then returns to New York, a claim of validity of the marriage may hold up in certain circumstances.
A skilled divorce attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. would be happy to discuss common law marriage and all aspects of family law with you.