The New Hampshire Supreme Court released an opinion on June 3, In Re Estate of David J. Bourassa that clarified the requirements for Common Law Marriage in New Hampshire. The relevant Statute is RSA 457:39. New Hampshire does not recognize common law marriage. However, what the State may recognize is what can be considered a common law marriage by death. The requirements are in three parts:

  1. Cohabitate for 3 or more years preceding death of one partner; and
  2. Acknowledge one another as husband and wife; and
  3. Generally presumed to be husband and wife in the community

This means that a cohabitating couple who is not legally married who have been together for 3 or more years and hold themselves out to be husband and wife are considered legally married upon the death of one partner. It is the death of one partner which triggers the statute if all other elements are satisfied. A couple who simply cohabitate for 3 or more years is not considered legally married under the law.

In the Bourassa case, the couple, David and Deborah, had cohabitated for 10+ years and had one child together. When David died Deborah filed a petition to be declared David’s common law spouse. The Court determined that Deborah had failed to show that she and the deceased fulfilled the last two prongs of the statute. They had not acknowledged or generally been presumed to be married. On the contrary, they were very vocal in making sure everyone knew they were not married.

Blog Credit: Marisa L. Ulloa, Crusco Law Office Law Clerk