Why Does New York Recognize Out-of-state Common Law Marriages?

Contrary to what many people believe about getting married, you do not need an extravagant ceremony or even a trip to the courthouse to tie the knot in some states. In fact, there are still a handful of states in the U.S. that recognize the idea of “common law marriage,” which can mean that you and your significant other might be husband and wife without even knowing about it.

What is Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage can make a man and a woman legally married if they live together for a certain period of time, intend to be married, and tell other people that they are together in marriage. No ceremony or fanfare or even an announcement is necessary for a common law marriage to happen.

However, only a few states recognize the doctrine of common law marriage. New York is not one of them. So how can a couple live in New York and still be married by common law?

The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution

There is a part of the U.S. Constitution, in Article IV, that states, “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” This passage, called the Full Faith and Credit Clause, prevents states from refusing to acknowledge the laws or court rulings of another state. Instead, the Full Faith and Credit Clause requires a state to blindly defer to another state’s decisions on what to do within its own borders, and enforce those rules if there should ever come a time when they spill into the first state.

How the Full Faith and Credit Clause Impacts Common Law Marriages in New York

One of those times is when a couple who has been married under common law comes to New York. Because one of the states that has acknowledged common law marriage is Pennsylvania, this can happen surprisingly often. So, whenever a couple that has been married under common law crosses the Pennsylvania border and enters New York, instead of losing their status as husband and wife, New York has to accept them as they are – a married couple – even though their form of marriage can never happen in our state.

Family Law Attorneys Can Clear Up Common Law Marriage Issues

The family law attorneys at the Bombardo Law Office can clear up any problems arising out of a common law marriage, including how to dispute a common law marriage. Contact or call  the Bombardo Law Office today at (315)488-5544.

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