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Home The Light Articles from 2004 Common-law Marriages In PA

Common-law Marriages In PA

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Common-law Marriages In PA

A little over a year ago, Pennsylvania tossed aside centuries of tradition when a Pennsylvania appeals court abolished common-law marriages, saying it is no longer necessary to give longtime live-in couples the benefits of marriage without a license.

We do not believe it takes a marriage license to certify a lawful marriage in God’s sight, but neither is it Scriptural for two to simply live together in forni-cation, and the State, after a certain amount of time has passed recognize this circumstance as marriage.

So, it seems to be a step in the right direction when the Commonwealth Court recognized such unions created an impossible situation for third parties trying to determine whether a person is married or single.

"Many sound reasons exist to abandon a system that allows the determination of important rights to rest on evidence fraught with inconsistencies, ambiguities and vagaries," Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter wrote in a filed decision. She added that the circumstances that created a "need" for common-law marriage (namely, the potential unavailability of a preacher in colonial times and the dependence of women on men for support) have dissipated.

The ruling was made in the case of a man who sought pension benefits after his common-law wife died in a 1994 plane crash, arguing that he was entitled to the benefits his live-in accrued while working at PNC Bank. PNC’s lawyer said his client has not decided whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said common-law marriage has posed a tremendous problem for large employers, insurance companies and pension fund administrators who have to decide whether someone is a legitimate spouse or a fraud.

As every Christian knows, when men legislate in God’s arena, they generally get involved in many unforeseen difficulties and inconsistencies. Marriages are indeed made in heaven, but it behooves us to abide by the laws of the State so long as they do not conflict with the laws of God (Rom. 13, Acts 5:29).



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