Last Updated On: June 3, 2022

Does New York Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Many couples enjoy committed relationships without the benefit of a legal marriage. But are these relationships recognized in the state of New York as common-law marriages?

What Exactly is the Definition of a Common Law Marriage?

In some states, common-law marriages are legally recognized between people who have formed committed relationships but have not gone through the formality of a marriage license and ceremony. While common-law marriages are legally recognized in a few states, the state of New York is not one of them.

Even in common law states, however, those who have lived together for many years, even if they share children and have decided to share a surname, are not legally recognized as “married” under common law unless they have met certain requirements. In most cases, a marriage is considered a legal common law marriage only if both partners agree to and behave as if they are married. In those states where it is legal, if the requirements of a common-law marriage have been fulfilled, the state affords you all or most of the same legal rights as those who are married.

New York eliminated common-law marriages in 1933. In the case where you have lived in a common-law state and have moved to the state of New York, your marriage will be recognized as legal here. But you first must have formed a common-law marriage under the former state’s laws to be recognized in New York.

What is Required to Be Legally Married in New York?

In the state of New York, there are specific requirements that must be met in order for you to become legally married. You must

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • If you are 16 or 17 years of age, you may marry with parental consent. 14 and 15-year-olds may marry if they have both parental consent and the authorization of a judge.
  • You are not married to another individual.
  • You have proven your identity with the proper documentation.
  • You are not marrying a close relative.
  • You have purchased a marriage license and have waited for the 24-hour waiting period. This waiting period may be waived in an emergency.


A legal marriage in New York must be made official by some type of ceremony involving clergy or a civil official. Both spouses will then sign a contract of marriage which is a legally binding agreement.

What About Domestic Partnerships?

Domestic partnerships are legal relationships in New York for couples who have a committed relationship but are not legally married. These are not the same as a common-law marriage, and a domestic partnership must be registered in the state of New York for the couple to have legal rights. But it is important to note that the rights of domestic partners are not the same as those of legally married couples in New York.

Now that the state of New York legally recognizes same-sex marriages, many couples who only had the option for domestic partnerships can now be legally married.


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