Common Law Marriage Arizona: Is It an Option in the State?

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By Divorce & Finance

Common law marriage in Arizona is a topic that worries couples who cannot afford marriage or those who were married by common law and willing to move to Arizona.

In the 19th century, common law marriage came into effect after formal weddings became harder to arrange and implement. Generally speaking, if two people have lived together for a specific period and hold themselves publicly as husband and wife, they are considered married.

Common-law marriage is deemed legal, even if, formally, there was no marriage ceremony or official procedure or documentation. It is often mistaken with long-term relationships and “domestic partnerships” and usually referred to by attorneys as an “informal marriage.”

To establish a common-law marriage, you and your partner’s future intentions must be marriage. A famous misconception states that seven years of living with your partner is required for a common-law relationship. However, each state has regulations that specify the amount of time needed to get married by common law.

Wedding celebration as common law marriage is illegal in arizona

You can do this by calling each other’s wife and husband and having you or your spouse take each other’s last name. In addition, any joint financial account is a shred of additional evidence that helps support your common law partnership.

Along with the time spent together, you and your partner are required to be of legal age and enjoy a sound mind. For your marriage to be legitimate, you and your partner have to show yourselves as a married couple to your relatives and friends.

Does Arizona Recognize Common Law Marriage?

When trying to get a common-law marriage, the obstacle people face is that it is not recognized in all states. Arizona is one of the states that does not provide common law marriage within its border.

So if you and your partner have established your common law marriage in AZ, the state will not recognize it as legal, no matter how much you and your partner seem committed.

The silver lining that exists is that common law marriage in Arizona is recognized, provided that you got married by common law in one of the states that approve it.

In other words, your common-law marriage will come into effect legally in Arizona if you have organized your wedding in either of the following states that approve and provide common law marriage: Iowa, Colorado, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Rhode Island, District of Columbia.

According to ARS 25-112, “Marriages valid by the laws of the place where contracted are valid in this state” (except when the marriage is void meaning that it is between blood relations and is therefore prohibited).

Although Arizona common law marriage is not an option for couples, there exist some legal ramifications of living with your partner and cohabitating.

When you move in with your significant other, the common law in Arizona may recognize a definite contract between you both. Therefore, if you share in buying things or handle debts regularly together, you can sue your partner for your proportion of something in the future.

Suppose you feel concerned after entering into a common-law marriage or having moved in with your partner. In that case, you should consider getting in contact with a licensed family law attorney to determine whether or not you have taken into consideration all possible legal repercussions.

In the probate of an estate, things may escalate and become complicated if the deceased person has not written a will. In that case, the deceased person’s assets are in the hands of the state law.

n that case, the law gets to decide who receives a portion of the deceased person’s estate. This process is called dying “intestate.” Usually, the surviving spouse has the highest advantage in intestate considerations.

How Does Arizona Treat Cohabitation?

Cohabitation agreement form in arizonaAccording to cohabitation laws in Arizona, the law does not consider people living together as married no matter the time of their cohabitation. In other words, and from a probate point of view, if both you and your partner are Arizonians, and either of you dies intestate, the other person will not be given the equal concern as would a surviving “spouse.”

However, as previously stated, Arizona recognized marriages as valid by the laws of the state in which you and your partner initially received your common-law marriage.

For a better understanding, according to marriage laws in Arizona and as an example, if you and your partner are legally married in an approved common law marriage state, and either of you dies, Arizona, recognizing the marriage as legal, would treat the surviving person as a spouse.

In probate matters, things can easily become complicated; therefore, it is always preferable to have your will ready rather than have nothing at all.

– Covenant Marriage

In addition to that, the state of Arizona, in 1998, formed a new type of marriage known as “Covenant Marriage.” To enter a covenant marriage, you and your partner must receive counseling from either a marriage counselor or a clergy member.

Through this premarital meeting, the couple is advised that the marriage they are about to step into is a commitment to be made for life and that the legal reasons applicable to end a covenant marriage are very limited. Finally, both partners must sign a special declaration when applying for a marriage license to enter into a convent marriage officially.

When filing for a divorce in a non-covenant marriage, either spouse simply declares that the marriage is irreversibly broken. However, that is not the case in covenant marriage.

Therefore, for the divorce to take place, the court has to find that one of the following took place, as per ARS 25-903: (petitioner is the spouse who filed for divorce and the respondent is the other spouse):

  • The respondent’s spouse engaged in adultery.
  • The respondent spouse was charged with a felony and sentenced to imprisonment or death in any state, county, federal or municipal correctional facility.
  • The respondent spouse has sexually or physically assaulted the petitioner.
  • The respondent has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least a year.
  • The petitioner and the respondent lived separately with no intention of reconciliation for at least two years.
  • The petitioner and the respondent lived separately for at least a year since a decree of legal separation was entered.
  • If the respondent spouse usually has habitual drugs and alcohol abuse.

– What Is Alimony?

Alimony is defined as a concept couples use after they break up. This case is referred to as spousal maintenance and spousal support (i.e., a spouse pays the other an amount of money as financial support during or after the two have finalized their divorce).

During the final judgment of divorce, the judge decides whether or not support will continue. In Arizona, there exist several types of spousal maintenance. For example, judges might offer a “pendente lite” support – also known as “award of temporary support” – if one spouse needs financial support for daily survival during the divorce.

A temporary maintenance award provides the spouse with financial backing for a fixed amount of time after marriage. The state of Arizona, in very rare cases, may offer permanent maintenance. The court provides permanent maintenance if the other spouse cannot financially look after themselves due to disability, age, or illness.

Palimony is an identical concept to alimony. However, instead of payments between divorced couples, palimony laws in Arizona provide compensation for couples who did not get married. Some courts in Arizona may grant palimony; nonetheless, it is very uncommon. Instead, it is usually a result of a written agreement such as a cohabitation agreement or a domestic partnership agreement.


Worried couple reading about common law marriage in arizonaUnfortunately, the state of Arizona does not provide common law marriage, no matter how committed and deeply in love you are with your partner.

Luckily, the state offers other alternatives for you to preserve all your rights as a spouse.

To add, Arizona will recognize your union if you get married in another state that accepts common-law marriage.

  • Suppose you have been in a long-term relationship, but you have not been married, and you are worried about the split of properties in case of death or breakup. In that case, it is preferred by attorneys to enter a Cohabitation or Domestic Partnership Agreement.
  • Cohabitation or Domestic Partnership Agreement helps specify your and your partner’s rights, obligations, and responsibilities should you decide to terminate the relationship.
  • It consists of specific rules related to the ownership of property and the debts received during the time of your relationship.
  • The agreements mentioned above are beneficial to everyone of all ages before marriage and adults and seniors who chose to cohabitate and not get married.
  • If you decide to enter a covenant marriage, you and your spouse must apply for a marriage license. The court treats divorces in such marriages differently than in traditional types of marriages.

Couples can establish or dissolve common-law marriages through specific requirements according to each state. In all cases, it is preferable always to refer yourself to an attorney to make sure you are aware of your rights should anything happen with your marriage.

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