While common law marriage is not commonly recognized in the state of Arizona, under certain circumstances it can be legally binding. In this article, we will discuss what qualifies as a common law marriage in Arizona, and how to prove a union that fits its definition.
Arizona does not allow couples to enter into a common law marriage within its borders. However, they were permitted for a brief period of time in the early 1900s. You can read more about the history of common law marriage in Arizona here.
Defining Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage, also known as “informal marriages,” is a form of legal marital relationship recognized by some states. It is not solemnized in the ordinary way. Rather, there are four elements for creating it (in order for it to be recognized in Arizona). The couple must establish the common law marriage in a state that permits them.
First, the couple must have a present agreement to marry. Second, they must cohabitate (in other words, live together). Third, they must hold themselves out as husband and wife. Black’s Law Dictionary 277 (6th ed. 1990).
Then here is the fourth element that is specific to Arizona. Assuming the couple has established a valid informal marriage outside Arizona, when they move to Arizona the marriage must not be void under our state statutes. A.R.S. 14-101 lists marriages that are void or prohibited. For example, Arizona does not permit marriages between first cousins. (There is an exception if the parties to the marriage were residents of Arizona prior to 1996.)
The Atkinson Case.
Let’s assume a couple resided in a common law marriage state at the time of the alleged marriage. Then they move to Arizona. In that case, the Arizona court will apply the prior state’s law to determine whether such a marriage was validly contracted. See, e.g., Atkinson v. Valley National Bank of Arizona, 22 Ariz. App. 297, 526 P.2d 1252 (1974) (common law marriage of former Texas residents recognized in Arizona; validity of marriage governed by Texas law).
The above discussion assumes that the couple was in a common law marriage state (like Iowa or Texas), created a common law marriage there, and then moved to Arizona. But what happens if an Arizona couple visits a common law marriage state? Keep reading to find out.
What Happens If An Arizona Couple Visits A Common Law Marriage State? Can They Enter A Valid Marriage That Way?
Arizona Court of Appeals Refuses To Recognize Marriage Based On Trip To Colorado
Does Common Law Spouse Have Rights In Probate In Arizona?
If your common law spouse died while a resident of Arizona, you may have rights as a spouse. There will be legal issues that need to get sorted out. For instance, are you protected by Arizona’s community property laws? Do you have priority for appointment as personal representative of the estate under A.R.S. 14-3203?
If your spouse died, you need an attorney to help you.
This can be confusing for you. We want to advocate for your rights as a spouse. Just give us a call at 602-443-4888.