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Pennsylvania had common law marriage for about 200 years; however, our state took them off the books as of January 1, 2005. That means that it became legally impossible to enter into a common law marriage from the date forward, but if you entered into one on December 31, 2004 (or earlier), it is a perfectly valid and legal marriage. (If you want to know if you are common law married, I wrote a comprehensive blog here on this website precisely about that and it is too lengthy to get into here.)

If you entered into a common law marriage before January 1, 2005, and now want to end it, well, a marriage is a marriage, whether common law or ceremonial with a valid marriage license and all marriages can be ended the same way in Pennsylvania. That is by the death of one of the parties, divorce or annulment (and you will find another comprehensive blog about annulment here). As a valid form of marriage, one cannot simply walk away from a common law marriage and think it will simply evaporate as if it had never existed. If one did that and married someone else, that would be bigamy, a felony. Not a good idea.

I do want to destroy a myth about common law marriage. I really have no idea from where it came or how it originated. Have you ever heard someone say, about themselves or others, “It’s been seven years together, so it’s common law”? Maybe in the movies, but, under Pennsylvania law, that is just plain bunk. If you’d like to find out if you may be in a common law marriage, please click the blog button at the top of this page and scroll until you find that topic. I can almost guarantee that you’re in for a surprise.