Today's Monday guest blog post is from the blog, The Elliot Schlissel New York Law Blog, associated with the The Law Office of Elliot S. Schlissel, a multi-service firm committed to client-focused, cost-effective legal services in the Five Boroughs of New York City,
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Getting a Common Law Marriage Recognized in New York
Common Law Marriage Versus Regular Marriage
The majority of states have laws establishing that marriages are only recognized when created with a marriage license and an official marriage ceremony. This is very important because many rights are dependant on the existence of a valid marriage. For instance, only a wife is entitled to an equitable share in the couple’s marital property and only a husband in a valid marriage will inherit from his wife if she dies without a Last Will and Testament.
Many situations exist, however, where a couple lives as husband and wife without ever formalizing their relationship with a marriage license and ceremony. This is referred to as a “common law marriage.” The parties will only have marital rights if their common law marriage is valid in one of the few states that still recognize common law marriage. Those states include Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Ohio, and Florida.
New York’s Recognition of Out-of-State Common Law Marriages
Even where a couple lives in a state like New York that has abolished common law marriage, if the marriage is valid in a state that does recognizes common law marriage, then New York would recognize the marriage as well, pursuant to the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution.
For instance, if a common law married couple lived in New York, and merely vacationed briefly in a state like Pennsylvania that does recognize common law marriage, New York State courts may very well recognize that marriage as valid. This is because “Pennsylvania [does] not require that the couple reside within its borders for any specified period of time before their marital status will be recognized.”
Not only that, but “behavior in New York before and after a New York couple’s visit to a jurisdiction that recognizes common-law marriage, like Pennsylvania, may be considered in determining whether the pair entered into a valid common-law marriage while cohabiting, even briefly, in the other jurisdiction.” Evidence of either actual cohabitation in Pennsylvania (like hotel receipts) or the renewal of the private marriage vows in Pennsylvania would still be required.
Because New York only recognizes a common law marriage where that marriage is valid under the laws of a state that validates common law marriage, it is important to understand what the elements of a common law marriage are in that state. This will determine what one must prove in order to have the marriage recognized in New York. Using our Pennsylvania law example, there is one primary requirement that must be met to validate a common law marriage...
(The remainder of this post can be read here.)