Everything You Need to Know About Common Law Marriage in New York
There are many legal and financial benefits to being married—hospital visitation rights, tax advantages, inclusion on insurance policies, and inheritance rights, to name a few.
Even so, some couples choose to skip the marriage license and formal wedding ceremony and commit to each other privately. This is typically known as a “common law marriage” and it is not legally recognized in all states.
What Is Common Law Marriage?
A common law marriage is a type of relationship in which a couple lives together for a long period of time and presents themselves to the community as a “married couple,” although they did not participate in the legal or religious ceremonies that would make it official.
In states that allow common law marriages, the relationship is usually recognized when a couple has been living together for a long time, have children together, and generally behave like spouses. The following criteria are generally taken into consideration when a state is deciding whether to recognize a common law marriage:
- Has the couple mutually agreed to be married?
- Have they been in a serious relationship for a prolonged period of time?
- Do they live together?
- Do they have children together?
- Do they present themselves to friends and the community as being married?
- Is either party legally married to someone else?
Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriages. However, the requirements vary from state to state, including prerequisites for verifying the validity of these types of marriages. These states are: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. There is a conflict between the state statute and state case law as to the legality of common law marriages in Oklahoma.
Common Law Marriages in New York
In New York, common law marriages have not been legally recognized since 1933. No matter how long you have been living with your partner, or have considered yourselves “married,” the state will not recognize the arrangement as a legal marriage. Therefore, you will not receive any of the legal or financial benefits that typically accompany a legal marriage.
However, if you form a common law marriage while residing in another state that legally recognizes common law marriage, New York will recognize that marriage if minimal contacts with the state in which the common law marriage occurred can be demonstrated. Legal precedent indicates the demonstration of minimal contacts is liberally construed.
Generally, precedent supports the proposition that the creation of a common law marriage during a short-term stay in a state where common law marriage is recognized will be sufficient for the common law marriage to be recognized in New York. To determine the legitimacy of the common law marriage, New York courts will apply the law of the state in which the common law marriage was committed.
If New York recognizes your common law marriage from another state, you can get divorced in New York in the same manner as if you were validly married under New York law.
What Makes a Marriage Valid in New York?
Aside from moving to New York after obtaining recognition for a common law marriage in another state, the state requires the following criteria in order to recognize a marriage as legal:
- Both parties must be at least 18 years of age; or 17 years of age with written consent of both parents and a Supreme Court justice or a family court judge from the district where the application was filed
- Proof of age and identity
- No close family ties between the parties seeking a marriage
- Neither party can be legally married to another person at the time of marriage
- A valid marriage license and marriage ceremony performed by a designated official, such as a member of the clergy or an approved civil magistrate
As an alternative to common law marriage, and in addition to a traditional marriage, domestic partnerships are another form of legal union that is recognized in New York State. The requirements below are necessary to register a domestic partnership in New York City:
- You must both be New York City residents—or one partner, as least, must be an employee of the City of New York as of the registration date
- You must both be 18 years old or older
- Neither person is a blood relative or is married—conditions that would bar a New York State marriage
- You must demonstrate that you share a committed and close personal relationship, that you live together, and that you have been cohabitating on a continuous basis
- You have to truthfully show and state on the application form for domestic partnership that you share an identical address of residence
- You must show that neither is in another domestic partnership at the time or that you have registered within the last six months in another domestic partnership
Hire a New York Family Lawyer
If you believe your relationship should be recognized in New York as a common law marriage, we can help. The New York family lawyers at Arons & Solomon can help you protect the validity of your common law relationship and the legal and financial benefits that should accompany it.Request a Free Consultation »