There is a lingering misconception that living together for a certain length of time in New Jersey, such as seven years, can trigger a common-law marriage that provides certain protections. There are a very small handful of states that still offer some type of common-law status, but New Jersey is not one of them. Common-law marriage rights were outlawed in New Jersey all the way back in 1939.
There is one possible exception to this. If a cohabiting couple lived in a common-law state and held themselves out as married, and then moved to New Jersey where their relationship ended, the couple could, in theory, ask the New Jersey courts to recognize their common-law marriage. Under what we call the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. constitution, a common-law marriage validly formed in one state is technically valid throughout the United States. Be aware that providing to the courts that an out-of-state common-law marriage had been established can be extremely difficult.
Bari Zell Weinberger is the owner and managing partner of Weinberger Law Group in New Jersey. She is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.