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What are Pennsylvania's rules about common law marriage?

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Quick Answer

The state of Pennsylvania stopped allowing new common law marriages as of Jan. 2, 2005, notes the Erie County Bar Association. The state does recognize valid common law marriages established before that date, if the parties can prove they met the requirements before the cutoff date.

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Full Answer

The burden of proof in gaining legal recognition of a common law marriage in Pennsylvania lies with the person attempting to prove its existence, states the Erie County Bar Association. Judges don't recognize such marriages unless there is clear and convincing evidence that there were no barriers to the marriage, and that the petitioners were eligible prior to Jan. 2, 2005. Older Pennsylvania law required the parties in common law marriages to be at least 18 years old and of opposite sexes.

People seeking recognition of common law marriages in Pennsylvania must prove that neither party was already married at the time and that they spoke to each other of being married, before the 2005 cutoff date, according to the Erie County Bar Association. Courts accept real estate deeds, mention of marital status on court documents and statements from people outside of the couple's close friends and family as evidence of common law marriage. People in common law marriages in Pennsylvania must petition for divorces in the same manner as people who had marriage ceremonies.

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