Do I Need a Final Divorce Decree to Remarry in New Hampshire?

by Beverly Bird

It’s not legal to remarry before your divorce is final and New Hampshire won’t take your word that your previous marriage has ended. Marriage licenses are available from any town or city clerk in the state and you can’t marry without one. The clerk will require proof of your divorce before issuing you a license. You can’t bend the rules, at least not without risking criminal prosecution.

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License Requirements

To receive a marriage license in the state of New Hampshire, you must provide the clerk with a copy of your divorce decree. It can’t be a photocopy or an electronic image, it must be the original received at the time the court granted your divorce. If you’ve misplaced your original decree, you can get another relatively easily. Go to the court that granted your divorce and ask the clerk for a “Request for Certified Copy of Divorce Decree or Vital Records.” Complete the form and pay a nominal fee. The clerk will give you a new certified copy to prove you’re divorced.

Objections

It’s possible for someone to object to your marriage license by claiming you’re not really divorced. Someone might allege you remarried after the court issued the decree you provided to get your marriage license and you have not divorced that spouse. She can report her suspicions to the New Hampshire state registrar. If she supplies proof you’re still married, the registrar will turn the matter over to the county attorney for investigation. If she does not offer proof, the registrar might contact you by registered mail to give you an opportunity to prove it’s not true. If you don’t respond to the registrar’s inquiry, or if the registrar has referred the matter to the county attorney, this voids your marriage license. You can't use it to get married.

Prohibited Marriages

If you remarry without divorcing first in New Hampshire, your spouse can have your marriage annulled on the grounds it is a “prohibited” marriage. The state’s legislative code specifically states you can’t marry unless a court legally dissolved your previous marriage. Under such circumstances, the law treats your marriage as though it never existed.

Penalties

You might think it’s easier to simply state on your marriage license application that you were never married before rather than spending time tracking down a certified copy of your decree. However, lying on the application is a Class B felony in New Hampshire. If you remarry before your divorce is final, New Hampshire’s criminal code classifies this as bigamy and bigamy is a Class B felony. It's punishable by as many as seven years in jail in New Hampshire and a potential fine of as much as $4,000.