Common Law Marriages in Arizona


Common law marriages are legal marriages where two people can be married without a formal wedding ceremony or a completed marriage certificate. Couples can enter into a common law marriage if their state allows it and if they meet specific criteria set by the courts.

Under Arizona state law, common law marriages sought by couples within the state are not recognized. For a marriage to be recognized as legitimate in Arizona, according to A.R.S. 25-111, two parties must participate in a marriage ceremony and get a marriage license.

However, Arizona does acknowledge opposite-sex marriages that were created in other states that do recognize common law marriages. If a couple enters into a common law marriage in a state that recognizes such marriages, then relocates to Arizona, the couple is still considered legally married in Arizona, even though common law marriages aren’t recognized under state law.

Does Arizona Recognize Common Law Marriage from Other States?

Arizona does recognize common law marriages if they occurred in another state. If a couple obtains a common law marriage in a state where it is legal and then moves to Arizona, the marriage is recognized by the court the same as any formal marriage.

Some states allow common law marriages under certain circumstances—this means that couples can be legally recognized as married without having a ceremony or a legal marriage certificate. Typically, to be considered in a common law marriage, the couple must meet several criteria. Cohabitation alone is usually not enough to justify a common law marriage.

Depending on the state, the court will look at several circumstances in deciding whether to recognize a marriage. Some criteria a court will consider in recognizing a common law marriage include:

  • Whether the couple has lived together and for how long
  • Whether the couple has a legal right to marry and is of legal age
  • Whether the couple views or represents themselves as married to family, friends, and their greater community
  • Whether they own property together or share a bank account

Still, the specific requirements for a common law marriage depend on the state. Each state may have its own criteria, so it’s important to do your research if you are unsure whether you are eligible for a common law marriage in another state.

Which States Allow Common Law Marriages?

There are nine states that recognize common law marriages in the United States. Couples in a common law marriage who move to Arizona from the following states will have their marriage recognized by the state of Arizona:

  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • Texas
  • District of Columbia

Some states, like Utah, recognize common law marriages if they’ve been court-approved. All states, including Arizona, recognize common law marriages that were first created in these states that allow the marriage arrangement.

The definitions and requirements for common law marriages in these states are varied, and couples in these states looking to learn more about common law marriage should research their state’s marriage laws.

Do Community Property Laws Apply To Common Law Marriages?

An important consideration in marriage is that of community property. Community property laws state that any property that either spouse acquires during the marriage is considered to belong to both as a couple.

For example, if one spouse buys a car during the marriage, then this property is considered to belong to both parties. Upon divorce, this property would have to be split 50/50 between the two parties. The exception to this is if the property is gifted or bequeathed to one of the spouses, it is not considered community property.

Arizona is a community property state, so any property acquired during the marriage will be considered community property belonging to both parties. Individuals who move to Arizona with a common law marriage will be held to this standard as well. Because their marriage will be recognized the same as any standard marriage, they will also be required to follow community property laws just as any other marriage in the state.

Since Arizona does not recognize common law marriages, the community property rule does not apply to couples who attempt to enter a common law marriage within the state. If a couple is not legally recognized as married, any property they acquire during the relationship is considered the property of the individual who acquired it.

For example, if one partner buys a car in a long-term relationship, the car only belongs to the person whose name is on the car, even if both parties pay into it.

Get Legal Support with Any Arizona Marriage Issue

Although common law marriages are not recognized in Arizona, common law marriages from other states are recognized. A formal marriage in Arizona must be established through a formal ceremony and a legal marriage certificate. However, any marriage from a common law state will be held to the same standard as a legal marriage if the couple moves to Arizona.

If you have more questions about common law marriage, or other marital topics in the state of Arizona, contact our team at JacksonWhite to schedule a consultation. We’ll take a look at your case and understand the circumstances around it to help you determine the best path forward.

Our family law team can help provide guidance on questions surrounding marriage cases. Meanwhile, our probate attorneys can provide support with probate-related matters surrounding common law marriages to help address any ambiguity surrounding these cases.

Our attorneys can help provide the counsel and assistance you need to secure the best possible outcome for your case and overcome any associated challenges.

Contact our team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

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