Saturday, June 04, 2005

Common Law Marriages

Common law marriages are those that occur in an unofficial manner but that may be recognized in certain situations and places. Common law marriages can occur only in certain U.S. states. There are likely other countries outside the U.S. that have common law marriages, too. Arizona has a specific statute relating to common law marriages:

Arizona Revised Statute §25-111 states as follows:

A. A marriage shall not be contracted by agreement without a marriage ceremony.
B. A marriage contracted within this state is not valid unless all of the following occur:
1. A license is issued as provided in this title.
2. The marriage is solemnized by a person authorized by law to solemnize marriages or by a person purporting to act in such capacity and believed in good faith by at least one of the parties to be so authorized.
3. The marriage is solemnized before the expiration of the marriage license.
C. The requirements of this section do not apply to the conversion of an existing marriage that is valid in this state to a covenant marriage that complies with the requirements of section 25-902.

As you will note above, the statute states that for a marriage entered into in Arizona, certain requirements must be met. Specifically, Arizona requires a ceremony, license and an authorized person to conduct the ceremony (or at least believed to be authorized). Thus, you cannot marry via the common law method in Arizona. However, if a couple was legally married under the common law in another state, Arizona will recognize that marriage.

Typical, but probably not universal, requirements for common law marriages in those U.S. states that recognize them may include:

1. The couple must hold selves out as married.
2. Continuous cohabitation by the couple.
3. The couple must meet all other requirements to marry in that state, for example:
a) No same sex marriages (a subject getting a lot of attention of late).
b) Age requirements must be met.
c) Neither party can be married to someone else.
d) No violations of a state's specific laws, such as those in Arizona Revised Statute §25-101.

To summarize:

1. No common law marriages can occur in Arizona.
2. If a person has a common law marriage in another state, Arizona may recognize it.
3. Evaluating the legitimacy of a purported common law marriage means looking at the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred.

Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C.
Trent Wilcox
For the Firm

Phoenix office:
3030 N. Central Ave., Ste. 705
Phoenix, Arizona 85012
Ph: 602-631-9555
Fx: 602-631-4004

Goodyear office:
1616 N. Litchfield Rd., Ste. 240
Goodyear, Arizona 85338
Ph: 623-344-7880
Fx: 602-631-4004

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Disclaimer: Providing the above information does not establish an
attorney-client relationship. To create such a relationship, both the
attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. The
information contained herein is meant only as general information and is not meant to be relied upon for the purpose of taking legal action. You should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information. Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. attorneys are licensed in Arizona only except for personal injury attorney Robert N. Edwards, who is licensed in Arizona and Minnesota.

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