Common Law Marriage in New Hampshire

A "common law marriage" is one in which a couple lives together and holds themselves out to the community as husband and wifebut who have no marriage license and have had no marriage ceremony. Only a few states now recognize common law marriage as a legal marriage.

New Hampshire recognizes common law marriage for inheritance purposes only, and the recognition begins only after the first spouse dies. In New Hampshire, a couple is determined to have been legally married if, after the death of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse can show that 1) the couple lived together for more than 3 years preceding the death of the other spouse, 2) the spouses had publicly acknowledged one another as husband and wife, (by their actions such as filing joint tax returns, using the same last name, wearing wedding bands, referring to each other as husband and wife, holding property jointly, etc. and 3) the couple was generally known as husband and wife in the community. Note that cohabitation alone, without further evidence of the couple holding themselves out as married, is insufficient to prove that a common law marriage has been formed.

New Hampshire does recognize as valid the common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met. As a result, legal action is needed to dissolve legal "common law" marriages performed in other states and foreign countries in compliance with their licensing and ceremonial regulations. The courts are available for determining the rights of parties now living in New Hampshire.

As long as a couple lives together as husband and wife, the question of validity of their marriage is unlikely to arise. However, for purposes of inheritance or the benefits of pension plans or social security, a valid marriage is required.

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