Starting January 1, 2005, common law marriage was legally abolished in Pennsylvania. That means that if you believe that your common law marriage began after that date, then you are not married. If you believe that your common law marriage began before January 1, 2005, then you may be married.
For obvious reasons, common law marriage is usually questioned either when a couple is trying to get divorced, or when one spouse dies and the other is trying to inherit. To determine if a couple is common law married, the Court will look at whether the couple exchanged words expressing “a present intent to be married” and whether they “held themselves out as married” to their community. Words expressing a present intent to be married do not have to be specific words, as long as they have an express intention of creating a legal marital relationship. “Holding yourself out as married” means that you refer to yourself as husband and wife in public, perhaps you share a bank account, one spouse took the other’s name, you exchange anniversary cards, you live together, etc.
The determination of the existence of a common law marriage is factual. If both putative spouses are alive and are able to testify, then they must testify both that they exchanged words expressing their present intent to be married, as well as holding themselves out as married. If one putative spouse is dead or otherwise unable to testify, then if the testifying spouse presents evidence of cohabitation and that they held themselves out as married, then it creates a presumption of marriage that another party can rebut.
Whether you are in a ceremonial marriage or a common law marriage, contact our experienced Pittsburgh family law attorneys to discuss your case!