Is Dating Your Cousin Illegal in New Hampshire? Here’s What the Law Says

Love knows no bounds, or so the saying goes. But when love blossoms between cousins, legal and ethical boundaries come into play. In New Hampshire, the Granite State, residents navigate a unique situation regarding cousin relationships. While some states across the US permit marriage between first cousins, New Hampshire stands firm with a ban. However, the legalities surrounding dating a cousin remain unclear. This article delves into the complexities of cousin relationships in New Hampshire, exploring the legalities, potential risks, and alternative paths for finding love.

Cousin Marriage Laws Across the US: A Patchwork of Regulations

The legal landscape surrounding cousin marriage in the United States is a patchwork of varying regulations. Some states, like New York and California, allow first cousins to marry. In contrast, states like Alabama and Arkansas prohibit marriage between even more distant relatives. This inconsistency highlights the absence of a federal law governing cousin marriage, leaving the decision to individual states.

The rationale behind these laws often centers on genetic risks associated with offspring from closely related couples. However, social and cultural factors also play a role. In some communities, cousin marriage is a long-standing tradition, while others view it as taboo.

New Hampshire’s Specific Laws: Marrying vs. Dating a Cousin

New Hampshire takes a clear stance on cousin marriage. Following RSA 457:3 [New Hampshire Revised Statutes], marriage between first cousins, or any closer blood relatives, is strictly prohibited. This law aims to reduce the risk of genetic disorders in children born from such unions.

However, the legal implications regarding dating a cousin are less clear-cut. New Hampshire law doesn’t explicitly address cousin dating. This lack of clarity leaves room for interpretation. While some legal experts posit there might be an implicit ban on cohabitation due to the potential for a romantic relationship, there haven’t been any court cases to establish a legal precedent.

Potential Risks of Cousin Relationships: Health Considerations

The primary concern surrounding cousin relationships lies in the realm of genetics. Children born to first-cousin couples have a slightly higher risk of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. These disorders occur when a child inherits a defective gene from both parents. Since cousins share a portion of their genes, the chances of both carrying the same recessive gene become slightly higher compared to couples with no blood relation.

While the absolute increase in risk is relatively small (around 2-3%), it’s essential to consider these potential health implications before pursuing a romantic relationship with a cousin. Consulting a genetic counselor before starting a family can provide valuable information and guidance.

Social and Ethical Concerns of Cousin Dating

Beyond the health considerations, cousin relationships raise social and ethical concerns. In some cultures, cousin marriage is a deeply ingrained tradition. However, in Western societies, romantic relationships between close relatives are generally frowned upon. This societal disapproval stems from the potential blurring of familial boundaries and the discomfort it can cause within families.

Furthermore, ethical considerations arise when considering power dynamics within families. Cousin relationships, especially with a significant age difference, might involve an imbalance of power, potentially leading to exploitation. It’s crucial to ensure any romantic relationship between cousins is built on genuine consent and emotional maturity.

Alternatives: Finding Love Outside the Family Circle

New Hampshire boasts a vibrant social scene, with cities like Manchester, Nashua, and Concord offering a plethora of opportunities to meet new people. Online dating platforms and social events can be excellent avenues for expanding your social circle and finding love outside the family.

Focusing on shared interests and hobbies is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. Joining clubs, attending community events, or volunteering for local causes can introduce you to potential partners who share your passions.

Conclusion: Love and Responsibility in New Hampshire

Love is a powerful force, but navigating its complexities within the family requires careful consideration. While New Hampshire law prohibits marriage between first cousins, dating remains a legal gray area. The potential health risks and social anxieties surrounding cousin relationships should be carefully weighed before pursuing such a path.

New Hampshire offers a wealth of opportunities to find love outside the family circle. By exploring your interests and expanding your social network, you can forge meaningful connections and build fulfilling relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Does the ban on cousin marriage in New Hampshire extend to second cousins?

A: No, the current law (RSA 457:3) only prohibits marriage between first cousins and closer blood relatives. There are no restrictions on marriage between second cousins or more distant relatives in New Hampshire.

Q: If I marry my first cousin in another state where it’s legal, will it be recognized in New Hampshire?

A: New Hampshire, like many other states, has a law against “evasion of prohibition” regarding marriage. This means that even if you get married to your first cousin in a state where it’s legal, the marriage won’t be recognized in New Hampshire if you move there and establish residency.

Q: If dating a cousin isn’t explicitly illegal, can we still live together?

A: As mentioned earlier, New Hampshire law doesn’t directly address cohabitation between cousins. While some legal interpretations suggest an implicit ban due to the potential for a romantic relationship, there haven’t been any definitive court rulings. It’s best to consult with a lawyer specializing in family law for specific guidance on cohabitation with a cousin.

Q: What resources are available for genetic counseling in New Hampshire?

A: Several resources can help you explore the genetic risks associated with cousin relationships. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) offers genetic services and referrals to genetic counselors [New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (.gov) genetic services]. Organizations like The March of Dimes and The National Society of Genetic Counselors also provide valuable information and resources for couples considering pregnancy [March of Dimes genetic counseling] [National Society of Genetic Counselors].

Q: Are there any cultural or religious considerations regarding cousin relationships in New Hampshire?

A: New Hampshire’s population is diverse, with a mix of cultural and religious backgrounds. While some cultures have traditions of cousin marriage, it’s generally not a common practice in the state. It’s important to be sensitive to the cultural and religious beliefs of your family and potential partner when navigating a cousin relationship.

Seeking Additional Support

If you’re struggling with feelings for a cousin or facing challenges within your family due to a cousin relationship, seeking professional support can be beneficial. Therapists specializing in family dynamics can offer guidance and strategies for navigating these complex situations. Additionally, support groups for individuals facing similar circumstances can provide a safe space to share experiences and connect with others.


Love is a beautiful thing, but navigating its complexities within the family requires thoughtful consideration. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the legalities of cousin relationships in New Hampshire, consulting with an attorney specializing in family law is crucial.

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MBS Staff
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