Guide to New York Common Law Marriage
If you have been cohabiting with a significant other for several years and consider yourself married, you may wonder if NY common law marriage laws allow you to have the same rights as other married couples. This guide can help you understand the basics of common law marriage and the current status of New York common law marriage laws.
What is Common Law Marriage?
Common law marriage is an institution that began in England. Traditionally, if a couple cohabited and presented themselves publicly as husband and wife, the unwritten laws of England (the “common law”) considered that couple married. In the United States, most states have allowed common law marriage at one time or another, and 10 states still recognize common law marriages today.
In New York, common law marriage was used frequently in the 19th and early 20th century. When a couple is common law married, they have all the rights and responsibilities of any married couple, and if they split up, a divorce is necessary rather than just informally dividing possessions.
Does New York Recognize Common Law Marriage?
New York law does not allow common law marriage regardless of how long a couple has been cohabiting. In New York, common law marriage was eliminated by a state law in 1938. While this is long enough ago that most people married by NY common law marriage have since died, common law marriages from before 1938 are still recognized as valid by the state.
Common Law Marriages From Other States
The other situation allowing couples to have a NY common law marriage is if they have a valid common law marriage from another state. All states are required to recognize valid marriages from other states, including those created from common law marriage arrangements. Currently, 10 states (Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) as well as the District of Columbia allow common law marriages, and a NY common law marriage may be established if you were common law married in any of these jurisdictions.
Because Pennsylvania borders New York and allows common law marriage, the most common state for New York common law marriage to come from is Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania also has no specific requirements for how long a couple must cohabit to be considered common-law married, but instead just requires proof of cohabitation and a reputation of marriage, as well as evidence that both people committed to the marriage verbally.
Questions about NY Common Law Marriage?
If you came from a common law marriage state to New York, common law marriage questions may be on your mind. Complex questions may be best handled by a New York marriage and family lawyer. If you believe that you are common law married according to the laws of your state, an attorney can ensure that your marriage is properly recognized by New York so that you and your common law spouse may have all the rights of any other married couple.