NH Law About... Common-law Marriage

Introduction to... Common-law Marriage

Updated February 21, 2017.

In New Hampshire, common law (or “non-ceremonial”) marriage is recognized only to the limited extent provided by RSA 457:39. The statute uses the phrase “cohabitation” not “common law marriage” so it may be difficult to find with a keyword search. Follow the link below to read the statute.

According to Douglas on Family Law (see below), common law marriage is also known as the “poor man’s marriage” and RSA 457:39 is otherwise known as the “I’d rather be dead than married” statute. Neither of those phrases is found in the RSAs either.

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney. 


Read about... Common-law Marriage

WEBSITES

NCSL. Common Law Marriage by State

Link verified on: February 21, 2017

Common law marriage is allowed in a minority of states. A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not purchased a marriage license or had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony.   GO>


PRINT

Family law / by Charles G. Douglas. New Providence, N.J. : LexisNexis, 2014. 4th ed.   GO>

Link verified on: May 23, 2017

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Read the law about... Common-law Marriage

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 457. Marriages  GO>

Link verified on: May 23, 2017

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: June 26, 2017

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

163 N.H. 202 (2012). In re Mallett

Link verified on: February 21, 2017

"In New Hampshire, marriage is controlled by statute. To constitute a valid, legal marriage, the union of two people must comply with the requirements of RSA chapter 457. Common law marriage is not recognized, except to the limited extent provided in RSA 457:39. Under RSA 457:39, when two persons cohabit and acknowledge each other as husband and wife, and are generally reputed as such, for at least three years and until the death of one of them, the survivor may be treated as the spouse of the deceased."   GO>

168 N.H. 707 (2016). Brooks v. Allen

Link verified on: February 21, 2017

[O]ur refusal to apply the divorce statute to the dissolution of non-marital living arrangements does not prevent equitable adjustment of the rights of the parties, that either party may bring a bill in equity or petition for declaratory judgment to determine equitably the rights of parties in particular property, and that a court will enforce an action in contract “to the extent that it is not founded upon the consideration of meretricious sexual relations.   GO>

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Reports

Link verified on: June 26, 2017

Find the New Hampshire Reports in libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

SSA-POMS. GN 00305.075 . State Laws on Validity of Common-Law Marriages / Social Security Administration. Effective Dates: 01/13/2017 - Present

Link verified on: February 21, 2017

Glossary of terms used in common-law (non-ceremonial) marriages -- Exhibit of the Digest of State laws on validity of common-law (non-ceremonial) marriages.   GO>

SSA-POMS. GN 00307.255. Common Law Marriages Outside the United States / Social Security Administration. Effective Dates: 06/24/2015 - Present

Link verified on: February 21, 2017

Policy on common law marriages outside the United States -- List of countries with precedent opinions on the recognition of common law marriages outside the United States.   GO>

LawLine

Link verified on: May 23, 2017

Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.   GO>


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