Is Common Law Marriage Real in New Mexico? Find Out Here

Common law marriage is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly does it mean? In New Mexico, there are some big misconceptions about what constitutes a common law marriage. It’s important for couples to understand New Mexico’s legal stance on common law marriage, so they know where they stand from a legal perspective. This article will provide an overview of common law marriage, debunk some myths about it in New Mexico, and discuss alternatives for legal recognition in the state.

What is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage refers to a relationship between two people that meets certain requirements in some states. It allows a couple to have the rights and responsibilities of marriage without having an official state-sanctioned ceremony or marriage license.

Historically, common law marriage served an important purpose. In some rural or remote areas, it was difficult for couples to travel to obtain a marriage license. Common law marriage allowed their unions to still have legal standing. Some states have kept recognizing these informal marriages, while others have phased it out over time.

Common law marriages differ from traditional ceremonial marriages in that there is no marriage certificate filed with the state. The validity of the marriage instead relies on the couple’s actions demonstrating their intent to be married.

Common Law Marriage in New Mexico

New Mexico does not recognize common law marriages formed within the state. This means that couples in New Mexico who consider themselves married without having had an official ceremony and marriage license are not seen as legally married under state laws.

Some key facts about New Mexico’s stance:

  • Since the 1920s, New Mexico state laws have explicitly prohibited recognizing common law marriages formed within the state. Some limited exceptions existed historically, but have since been repealed.
  • Common law marriages from outside the state that predate New Mexico’s ban may still be valid if properly evidenced. However, this is rare in modern times.
  • Simply living together, having joint accounts, referring to each other as “spouse,” or other actions do not prove a common law marriage in New Mexico. A legal process is required.

So in summary – no, New Mexico does not recognize common law marriage! Some couples mistakenly believe they have all the rights of married spouses through common law. But without formal legal recognition, they do not.

Legal Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Recognizing States

Currently, only a handful of U.S. states still allow common law marriage. Each state has its own definitions and rules around it. Some general requirements:

  • The couple must exchange consent and agree to enter a marital relationship. This agreement can be verbal.
  • The couple must live together and present themselves publicly as married.
  • The marriage must be consummated through sexual intercourse.

Unlike New Mexico, these states do recognize unregistered common law marriages as legally valid. However, the burden of proof falls on the couple to demonstrate they meet the requirements. Overall, it is still smarter to have a formal marriage license whenever possible for clarity.

Legal Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Recognizing States

Implications of New Mexico’s Stance on Common Law Marriage

Because New Mexico does not recognize common law marriage, it affects couples in several ways:

  • No marital property rights: Common law spouses have no legal claim over property acquired during the relationship. Courts will not treat it as marital property.
  • No spousal inheritance: Surviving common law partners have no automatic inheritance rights. The deceased’s assets go to legal heirs, not the spouse.
  • No spousal benefits: Common law couples cannot claim Social Security benefits, health insurance, tax benefits, or other marital rights from private or governmental institutions.

Without marital rights, couples must take extra steps to protect assets and plan for contingencies. This underscores the need for cohabitation agreements or other legal documentation in New Mexico.

Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in New Mexico

Luckily, alternatives to establish legal rights as an unmarried couple exist in New Mexico:

Domestic Partnership

  • Available for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples
  • Provides limited marital rights related to property, inheritance, hospital visitation
  • Requires registering as domestic partners with the county clerk

Cohabitation Agreement

  • A signed contract between unmarried partners
  • Outlines financial obligations, property rights, inheritance, more
  • Becomes legally enforceable if relationship ends
  • Recommended for common law couples in New Mexico

These options allow couples to get some legal protections without formal marriage. To establish them, consult with an attorney to draft the proper documentation.


Common law marriage is widely misunderstood in New Mexico. The key takeaway is that New Mexico law does not recognize common law spouses as legally married. This affects property rights, inheritance, and other significant matters. Unmarried couples can look into domestic partnerships or cohabitation agreements to secure some legal protections. But overall, formal marriage is the only way to obtain full marital rights under New Mexico law. Understanding the stance of the state on common law marriage can prevent unpleasant surprises down the road.


Is my long-term relationship considered a common law marriage in New Mexico?

No, New Mexico does not recognize common law marriage for relationships originating within the state, regardless of how long you have lived together.

Do we have marital property rights if we are common law married in New Mexico?

No, without formal marriage, New Mexico courts do not view property acquired during the relationship as joint/marital property. Common law marriage confers no property rights.

Can I collect my common law spouse’s Social Security or other government benefits after their death?

No, you must be legally married to collect spousal/survivor benefits from Social Security, veteran’s benefits, etc. Common law marriage does not qualify.

What can we do to have a legal relationship without actual marriage?

You can register as domestic partners with the county clerk or draft a cohabitation agreement outlining mutual rights and financial obligations. Consult a lawyer to understand your options.

If we have a child together, does that mean we have a common law marriage?

No, having a child together or joint bank accounts does not constitute a legal marriage in New Mexico. You must formally marry to be recognized as legal spouses.