Am I In a Common Law Marriage?
Some couples decide to stay together for years or decades without marrying. In some states, a couple can decide to participate in a common law marriage, a union without a marriage license or ceremony. It is important to know this is not possible in every state.
There are states that allow common law marriage, but Pennsylvania no longer allows couples to enter into common law marriages. But for couples who common law married before a particular date, the marriage is still recognized by the state of Pennsylvania. Couples need to have been common law married before January 1, 2005 in order to have that union valid with the state.
What Are the Requirements for Common Law Marriage?
As stated above, not all states recognize common law unions. In the states that do, there are requirements. These requirements can vary from region to region but could include one or all of the following:
- Lived together for a certain amount of time.
- Legally can marry in the state.
- Recognizes the other in the couple as their spouse.
Some of the places that recognize common law marriages include Washington D.C., Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
If you connected under common law in a state that recognizes common law unions, it could be recognized in a state that does not support common law. This is because, in many cases, another U.S. state will honor the rules and laws of another.
Cohabitation Agreements Are Helpful for Some Couples
If you are in a long-term relationship but you and your partner have decided not to marry, it is not safe to assume you will be recognized as a common law marriage. After all, this was no longer an option for Pennsylvania couples. For this reason, it is advisable to look into other protections, such as a cohabitation agreement.
A cohabitation agreement is essentially a contract. The two people within the relationship can decide on how their finances, including assets and debts, will be connected while they are one household and how the assets and debts will be handled if the couple separates later.
While a cohabitation agreement might sound a bit like a prenuptial agreement, it is not. It is a contract. A prenuptial agreement dispute would be dealt with in a family court while a cohabitation agreement dispute would be assessed in civil court. It is also important to point out that if a couple has children, parenting terms would not be set in a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are not designed to stipulate parenting plans or child support payments.
Do you have questions about how to handle the legalities of your romantic union? The Bucks County family attorneys at Kardos, Rickles & Hand can help. Our legal team is connected to a variety of resources. There are opportunities to create and enforce agreements. Schedule your free consultation today, call (215) 968-6602.