A "common law marriage" (also referred to as an informal marriage) is one where an  unmarried couple meet specific requirements (according to state law), and are considered legally married even if they haven't had a legal ceremony or have the appropriate documentation.

So many couples are together for decades and never decide make their union official by law. Should these couples not be entitled to the same benefits as legally married couples because of a little piece of paper? I don't think so!

My husband and his longtime college roommate joked that they were in a common law marriage in the state of Massachusetts because of the number of years they lived under the same roof. I don't believe they received any benefits or anything, but it was fun to say.

Most states do not allow common law marriage, but a few do.

New Hampshire only recognizes common law marriage in limited circumstances that won't apply to many couples. According to FindLaw.com, even though the state doesn't allow people to form new common law marriages, it will recognize them for purposes of inheritance.

The rule is as follows: If an unmarried couple is living together and one partner passes away, the living partner can file a legal action to get your fair share of the deceased partner's assets as long as the following statements are true:

  • You lived together for at least three years before one of you died.
  • In that time, you acknowledged each other as spouses. You and your spouse must have behaved as if you were a married couple, and not merely romantic partners, in your dealings with each other.
  • The community regarded you as spouses.
  • You held yourselves out as a married couple to your family, friends, and community.

Some of these feel a bit vague and a difficult to quantify to me. How does one proof that you and your spouse behaved as a married couple? Do you provide a bill with both of your names on it? Do you show pictures of your Caribbean vacation together? It almost feels like the movie I Now Pronounced You Chuck & Larry starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. But I digress.

If all of the above statements are true, the court will recognize your relationship as marital and the rule will be triggered. The surviving spouse can then attempt to secure a fair share of the decedent's (dead spouse's) estate. This is the only way in which New Hampshire will recognize new common law relationships that began within its borders.

Are you currently in a common law marriage in the state of New Hampshire? Do you think the current laws are fair?

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