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Does NY recognize common law marriage?

The short answer is: NO…

However, as with most legal issues, there is no black and white. The NY Courts have stated that without a marriage – there will be no recognition of an implied contract. This is a huge impediment to someone seeking any sort of support or a share of property based on a romantic relationship that is not consummated by marriage.  The highest court in New York – the Court of Appeals – stated in Morone v. Morone (1980) that it is not reasonable to infer an agreement to pay for services rendered when the relationship of the parties makes it natural that the services were rendered gratuitously.  The Court further stated that it is hard for Courts to sort out intentions of parties and provide awards based on conduct carried out within private and non-contractual relationship.  Contrast that with marriage, which is considered by the Courts to be contract and an economic partnership.

But all is not lost…there are some limited circumstances where a NY court may grant relief to someone seeking support in a non-marital context.  In essence, the Courts require that there is an express contract between the parties (not an implied contract).  For example, if one party to the relationship admits that he/she did offer to compensate the other party in exchange for something specific, the Court may find an express contract.  Other arguments can be made for compensation in a non-marital context.  However, the case law makes it clear that New York courts are reluctant to treat the breakup of a non-marital relationship in the same manner as a divorce.

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