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Pennsylvania Abolishes Common Law Marriage
Recently, the Commonwealth Court decided to do away with the doctrine of common law marriage. The Court said: "The circumstances creating a need for the doctrine are not present in today's society. Access to both civil and religious authorities for a ceremonial marriage is readily available in even the most rural areas of the Commonwealth." However, questions remain, such as:
What happens to everyone who was common law married before the court's September, 2003 ruling?, and If common law marriages are no longer recognized, what is the date of prohibition?
The consensus of opinion is that everyone who already has a common law marriage is grandfathered in. As for the date of prohibition, perhaps it is the date of the opinion in this landmark case. PNC Bank Corp. vs. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (September, 2003).
A couple can come to their own agreement about property settlement, which the court will generally accept. The Pennsylvania court will decide if either spouse is entitled to alimony, based on age, physical and mental condition, earning potential, duration of the marriage and standard of living. The court decides the duration of alimony, but support ends automatically if the one receiving it remarries or cohabits.
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