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Common Law Marriage in Arizona

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Common Law Marriage- How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

Common law marriage is a concept that has been around for centuries and continues to be a topic of interest in family law.

In Arizona, however, common law marriage is not recognized

which can lead to some unique legal challenges for couples who consider themselves to be husband and wife without a formal marriage certificate.

Whether it’s understanding the legal implications of not being recognized as a married couple in the eyes of the state or seeking affordable legal services to protect each other’s rights and assets from a common law marriage originating in another state, a legal paraprofessional can provide much-needed guidance and support. 

We will cover the following topics:

What Is a Common Law Marriage? 

A common law marriage is a non-ceremonial form of marriage that can be recognized as legally valid without a formal wedding or marriage license,

based primarily on the couple’s cohabitation, intention, and presentation as a married couple.

This concept originated in England and was transported to many states in the U.S. However, its recognition varies significantly across different jurisdictions.

In Arizona, common-law marriages are not legally recognized. This means that regardless of the duration of a relationship or how a couple may present themselves publicly, they are not considered legally married without undergoing the formal process, including obtaining a marriage license and having a marriage ceremony.

In What States Are Common Law Marriages Legal?

Common law marriages are legally recognized in a select few states within the United States.

Each state has distinct criteria for what constitutes a common-law marriage. 

  1. Colorado: No minimum period of cohabitation required; couples must hold themselves out to the public as married.
  2. Iowa: Requires a minimum period of cohabitation and public declaration of the marriage.
  3. Kansas: Recognition based on cohabitation and public representation as a married couple.
  4. Montana: No formal requirements for a specific period or public declaration, but couples must meet certain criteria to be recognized.
  5. New Hampshire: Recognizes common law marriage only for the purpose of inheritance.
  6. South Carolina: Requires proof of cohabitation and a mutual agreement to be married.
  7. Texas: Known as “informal marriage,” requiring declaration and registration at the local county clerk’s office.
  8. Utah: Requires a petition to the court to establish a common law marriage.

It’s important to note that the recognition of common law marriage and the associated rights and responsibilities vary from state to state.

Couples in these states are typically granted the same legal rights as those in ceremonial marriages, including in areas of property division, inheritance, and spousal support. 

Will Arizona Recognize My Common Law Marriage From Another State? 

Arizona acknowledges common law marriages established in other states, adhering to the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.

While the state itself does not permit the formation of common law marriages, it recognizes them if they are legally valid in the state where they were formed.

  • Interstate Recognition: Arizona respects out-of-state common law marriages, provided they meet all legal requirements of the state in which they were established.
  • Proof of Validity: Couples must demonstrate their relationship met the criteria for a common law marriage in the originating state, including aspects like cohabitation and public recognition as a married couple.
  • Equal Legal Standing: Once recognized, these marriages have the same legal rights and responsibilities as traditional marriages in Arizona, covering areas like property rights, inheritance, and spousal maintenance.
  • Legal Challenges: Proving a common law marriage can be complex without formal documentation, so maintaining detailed records is crucial.

In summary, Arizona will recognize a common law marriage from another state, but couples need to be prepared to provide evidence of the marriage’s validity according to the laws of the state where it was established.

Common Law Marriage and Divorce: How Does It Work?

While Arizona does not establish common law marriages within its borders, it does recognize those validly formed in other states due to the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Consequently, if an Arizona resident was part of a common law marriage formed in a state like Colorado or Texas, Arizona courts will treat the dissolution of this marriage similarly to any other divorce proceeding.

This process will involve the equitable division of assets, determination of spousal support, and, if applicable, decisions regarding child custody and support. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1: Can my partner and I be considered legally married under common law if we live together in Scottsdale, Arizona?
A1: In Arizona, including cities like Scottsdale, the state does not recognize common-law marriages, regardless of how long a couple has lived together. While the concept of “marriage by habit and repute” or common-law marriage is recognized in some states, Arizona is not one of them.

Q2: As a surviving spouse in a common-law marriage from another state, what are my inheritance rights in Arizona?
A2: If your common-law marriage is recognized by the state of Arizona, you would have the same inheritance rights as a surviving spouse in a traditional marriage. This includes rights related to community property and other estate matters, subject to Arizona state probate laws.

Q3: Is it possible for my partner and I to file joint tax returns in Arizona if we have a common-law marriage from another state?
A3: If you are in a common-law marriage recognized by the state of Arizona because it was contracted in a state that allows such unions, you may file joint tax returns as a married couple.

Q4: If my partner and I have a common-law marriage in another state, how does the State of Arizona handle our marital contract for legal matters?
A4: When a couple with a common-law marriage from a state that recognizes such unions relocates to Arizona, the State of Arizona will uphold their marital contract for legal matters. This includes recognizing rights related to property disputes, probate proceedings, and other family law matters under Arizona state law.

Q5: Can I use my spouse’s last name in Arizona if we are in a common-law marriage recognized by another state?
A5: Yes, if your common-law marriage is recognized by Arizona because it was contracted in a state that recognizes common-law marriages, you can legally use your partner’s last name. However, it’s advisable to keep documentation proving the validity of your common-law marriage.

Q6: Are there family law firms in the 480 area code that specialize in cases involving common-law marriages?
A6: Yes, there are family law firms in the 480 area (Scottsdale and surrounding areas) that specialize in cases involving common-law marriages recognized by other states. These firms can provide legal advice and representation in various family law needs, including those unique to common-law marriages.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

How a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional Can Help 

De Novo Law offers specialized assistance through their family law legal paraprofessionals for couples moving to Arizona with a common law marriage established in another state.

A legal paraprofessional, like those at De Novo Law, is a licensed professional who can perform many of the same functions as an attorney but at a more affordable cost.

This includes offering guidance on how Arizona laws might affect your common-law marriage and handling associated legal matters like property division, child custody, and support.

For individuals seeking advice in this area, De Novo Law’s free consultation offer is an excellent starting point to better understand your situation. You can contact them at (480) 725-2200. to schedule this consultation and discuss the specifics of your common law marriage and how it may be treated under Arizona law.

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DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.


Contact De Novo Law at any time to setup a free one-on-one consultation so we can discuss your concerns.

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