Common law marriage in Pennsylvania was abolished on January 2, 2005.
However, couples who entered into a common law marriage before that date are still recognized as married.
To be in a legitimate recognized common law marriage, the two parties have to have made a present expression of intent to be married (e.g. “You are my husband/wife/spouse”). Many people think that the length of time that a couple has been together (e.g. seven years) creates a common law marriage.
That is not the case; length of marriage has never been a factor in creating a common law marriage. This may be important for inheritance upon the death of one partner, but also for protection from creditors of one spouse.
Only property held jointly by a husband and wife (called a “tenancy by the entireties”) receives this special protection; property held jointly by an unmarried couple does not.
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Jeffrey Bellomo, Esq.