Can A Common Law Marriage Collect Alimony?

If you’ve been with someone for a very long time, shared your life, even raised a family together and now run into the difficult situation of needing to go your separate ways, this simply means that it’s time to seek experienced divorce lawyers, and, if there’s a dispute about equitable distribution, take the case to court to have a judge resolve the problem. However, all of this applies to a traditional marriage, where the couple involved have applied for a Pennsylvania marriage license, gotten their legal document certifying the union, and had the religious or civil ceremony of their choice.

But what if you didn’t do this? What if your union was one strictly of love and trust, and no legal document was ever applied for, received and filed with the municipal and state government? Then your options become more complicated.

You’re Still Single

As of 2005, Pennsylvania does not recognize common law marriages. This means that even if you have children, you are considered a single parent, or will need to resolve the issue in court with a paternity case if custody is in dispute. This also means, however, that if you want to collect spousal support, spousal maintenance or alimony as it is more commonly called, you simply can’t. You’re not entitled to alimony financial support because as far as the state is concerned, you were never married in the first place.

The same thing applies to the ownership of assets in the relationship. If a house is owned by one person or another, that house remains in full legal possession of whoever has their name signed under ownership. Even with 20 years of being together, living under that roof, you cannot argue in court that you deserve half of the home if you don’t have your name in ownership. Your entire relationship, as far as the law is concerned, is simply that of boyfriend/girlfriend, or same sex couple, but you are not entitled to any of the rights or state benefits that a legally bound and recognized couple may receive.

Unfortunately, in a case like this, a divorce lawyer can do very little to protect a client’s rights since that client has no spouse rights. Pennsylvania does not consider people in this situation to have ever been a spouse in the first place. If you have faith in the love and trust and bond of the person you are with, none of these considerations are an issue. But if you want legal protection in the event of a dispute, you should enter into a legal state of marriage.