Pennsylvania: “Widow” Did Not Establish Common Law Marriage by Exchange of Vows in Wyoming: No Surviving Spouse Death Benefits Could Be Recovered

Pennsylvania: “Widow” Did Not Establish Common Law Marriage by Exchange of Vows in Wyoming: No Surviving Spouse Death Benefits Could Be Recovered

A Pennsylvania appellate court recently affirmed a decision by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board that had in turn had affirmed the denial of a petition seeking death benefits under § 307(3) of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Claimant and the decedent were never formally married, but claimant contended that she was entitled to widow’s benefits because the two had established a common law marriage with the exchange of rings and vows in 2003, when the two lived in Wyoming. The appellate court agreed that if the 2003 exchange of rings and vows had taken place in Pennsylvania, it would have been sufficient to establish a common law marriage, but Wyoming did not allow such common law marriages in 2003 and the Pennsylvania legislature abolished common law marriage as of January 1, 2005, before the couple moved to the state. The 2005 Pennsylvania legislation included a grandfather clause recognizing valid common law marriages prior to that date, but the so-called common law marriage between claimant and decedent was not valid according to Wyoming law and did not, therefore, fall within the grandfather clause.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Serrano v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Paterson UTI, Inc.), 2014 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 318 (June 12, 2014) [2014 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 318 (June 12, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 96.02 [96.02]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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