Many couples in New Hampshire and other states are “cohabiting,” or living together, and even raising children without getting legally married. Although the arrangement suits many couples who use it, it may not protect either the adults or the children in the family if the cohabitation relationship splits up.
Only nine U.S. states currently recognize “common-law marriage,” in which a couple lives together and holds themselves out as married, but never gets a formal marriage certificate. New Hampshire is not one of these states, but courts in New Hampshire will consider cohabitation in the limited instance of probate disputes – issues regarding who should receive a deceased person’s estate after he or she has died.
However, in New Hampshire and most other U.S. states, cohabiting doesn’t provide the same protections as marriage. Legal protections related to child custody, visitation, spousal and NH child support, and the rights to see one another in the hospital or make important decisions on a partner’s behalf are missing if a couple is not legally married, even if they are devoted to one another and have been together for many years. Some foreign countries also prohibit travel or staying together by couples who are not married.