Common Law

Many people believed that if you lived with your significant other for seven years, you automatically became husband and wife.  Prior to 2005, common law marriage was created when both parties expressed an agreement to each other that they were married.  In November of 2004, Governor Rendell signed into law Act 144, which invalidated the formation of common law marriages on or after January 1, 2005.


Marriages may be ruled void if (1) at the time of marriage either party had an existing spouse and the former marriage was not annulled, or there was not a divorce entered; (2) a marriage was between close family members such as parent and child, brother and sister, uncle and niece, and grandparent and grandchild; (3) if one party lacked the capacity to consent to said marriage or did not intend to consent to the marriage; or (4) when either party was incapable of consenting to the marriage because of insanity or other serious mental disorder.
Marriages can be ruled voidable if (1) either party was under the age of 16 years old, unless said marriage was authorized by the court; (2) if either party was 16 or 17 years old, did not have parental consent or an authorization by the court, and an annulment action was commenced within 60 days of the marriage; or (3) when one party was persuaded to enter the marriage due to coercion, force, duress, or fraud by the other party and there was not voluntary cohabitation after knowledge of the fraud or release from the effects of fraud, force, duress, or coercion.
There are no monetary advantages to obtaining an annulment instead of a divorce.  The Pennsylvania divorce code provides that equitable distribution of marital property, alimony, counsel fees, and expenses are available in both annulment and divorce actions.