A common law marriage is distinguished from a regular marriage in that no marriage license is required. Instead, parties just have exchange words of intent to be married and hold themselves out to their community as a married couple. Often, the parties also lived together for some length of time as well. Common law marriage was abolished in Pennsylvania in 2005. Parties who met the requirements for common law marriage prior to 2005 can still be recognized as valid marriages. Once a common law marriage is established, it can only be resolved by divorce just as with any regular marriage. Moser v. Renninger, 2012 PA Super 59 (2011) discusses how to evaluate whether a valid common law marriage exists.
Common law marriage could be established in Pennsylvania up until January 1, 2005. All common law marriages established before that date are recognized as valid marriages. In order to establish a common law marriage, the parties must have exchanged words of intent to be married and held themselves out to their community as being married. Often, the parties also lived together for some length of time. While this is not a requirement in and of itself, it plays into the couple having held themselves out as married. Once a common law marriage is established, it can only be resolved by divorce just as with any regular marriage. Pennsylvania is presently in a transition stage in that while no new common law marriages can be created, there are still inquiries into whether they were previously created and accordingly, how the ancillary issues should be handled, i.e. divorce versus civil suit.