Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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 states. There are also likely to occur in countries outside the United States that have common law marriages, too.

However Arizona does not have common law marriges.

Moreover, 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, requirements for common law marriages in those 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.

If you have a common law marrige we suggest that you speak with an attorney for legal advice before proceeding with your divorce, legal separation, or annulment so that you may discuss your legal rights.