Many couples today join their lives together and start families without formalizing their relationship through marriage. After spending many years together in a de facto “marriage”, many New Mexican couples expect that at least some marital rights can be recognized through a common-law marriage. Unfortunately, in most cases, New Mexico does not recognize common-law marriages.  That means community property would only apply to what was purchased after the marriage in the event of divorce. Issues like custody and property division may still need to be addressed even if the couple is not married. 

Two pairs of stick figures, one pair with regular outfit and second pair with wedding tuxedo and gown.

What is a Common-Law Marriage?


A  Common Law Marriage is defined as a couple living together for a period of time and holding themselves out to friends and family as “being married,” but without ever going through a formal ceremony or getting a marriage license.  Common-law marriage is not recognized in the State of New Mexico as valid and as such, New Mexico couples who have not obtained a marriage license valid in New Mexico will not be recognized as legally married. However, there is one exception to this.


When Does NM Recognize Common-Law Marriages?


New Mexico does recognize common-law marriages only if the marriage would have been held legal in another state. For example, if an unmarried couple from Colorado recently moved to New Mexico and one of the parties filed for divorce, then that party would have to claim the couple was married under the common law marriage law of Colorado. To do so, the party would have to show the couple had lived together for an extended period in Colorado, they intended to be married, and held themselves out as married to their community in Colorado. If the couple met the requirements of common law marriage of Colorado while living in Colorado, then New Mexico courts could proceed with the divorce as if the couple was legally married within the state of New Mexico.

In short, couples from New Mexico cannot proceed with a divorce without a valid marriage license, New Mexico will recognize common law marriages that have been transferred from other states. Even though you may not have a common-law marriage, other issues may still need to be addressed, like division of property, custody and child support. If you need help, contact our Albuquerque Divorce Lawyers by chatting with someone online now or by calling us at (505)-317-4455. 
Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Guardianship Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond