While recognizing common law marriage is not widespread in Arizona, there are circumstances where it can be legally binding. In this article, we will explore the criteria for a common law marriage in Arizona and how to establish a union that meets its definition.
Defining Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage, also referred to as “informal marriages,” is a type of legal marital union acknowledged by certain states. It is not a formal ceremony but rather requires four elements to be considered valid in Arizona. The couple must establish the common law marriage in a state that allows it.
Firstly, the couple must have a current agreement to marry. Secondly, they must cohabit or live together. Lastly, they need to present themselves as husband and wife, as stated in Black’s Law Dictionary 277 (6th ed. 1990).
Additionally, there is a fourth element specific to Arizona. Assuming the couple has established a valid informal marriage outside of Arizona, if they move to Arizona, the marriage must not be void under the state statutes listed in A.R.S. 14-101. For example, Arizona does not permit marriages between first cousins, with an exception for parties who were residents of Arizona prior to 1996.
The Atkinson Case
Let’s consider a scenario where a couple resided in a common law marriage state when the alleged marriage took place. If they subsequently move to Arizona, the Arizona court will apply the law of the previous state to determine the validity of the marriage. Refer to Atkinson v. Valley National Bank of Arizona, 22 Ariz. App. 297, 526 P.2d 1252 (1974) for a case where a common law marriage between former Texas residents was recognized in Arizona under Texas law.
The above discussion assumes that the couple was in a common law marriage state (such as Iowa or Texas), established a common law marriage there, and then relocated to Arizona. But what if an Arizona couple visits a common law marriage state? Read on to find out.
What Happens If An Arizona Couple Visits A Common Law Marriage State? Can They Enter A Valid Marriage That Way?
Does a Common Law Spouse Have Rights in Probate in Arizona?
If your common law spouse passed away while residing in Arizona, you may have rights as a spouse. Various legal matters will need to be resolved, including whether you are protected by Arizona’s community property laws and if you have priority as the personal representative of the estate under A.R.S. 14-3203.
If Your Spouse Has Passed Away, Seeking Legal Assistance Is Essential
Dealing with these matters can be perplexing, and we are here to advocate for your rights as a spouse. Contact us at 602-443-4888, and we will provide the necessary legal assistance.