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Arizona Common Law Marriage

What is Common-Law Marriage in Arizona?

Common-law marriage is a type of union in which individuals who have not performed a ceremony or obtained a marriage license live together for a period of time and refer to each other as ‘married’. Couples in a common-law marriage are regarded as spouses in the community. common-law marriages involve:

  • Sharing financial duties
  • Signing legal contracts together
  • Using the same last name
  • Raising children together

Couples in a common-law marriage enjoy certain benefits attributed to formal marriage. Partners typically have the right to make decisions regarding medical emergencies, couples also have legal hospital visitation rights, child custody rights, right of inheritance, and spousal support.

Common-law marriage has its cons. When there’s no legal paperwork to prove marriage. Couples who separate may have trouble determining alimony or child-support payments. When there is a child involved, couples may have difficulty with child custody, and child-support payments. Similarly, couples may face difficulties visiting a partner who has been incarcerated.

Due to the fact that there is no legal document filed with the government to prove a marriage, several issues may arise involving property division. Couples in a common-law marriage also risk losing the right to survivorship.

Marriage in Arizona

In 2019, the marriage rate in Arizona was 5.3 marriages per 1,000 persons, and the divorce rate was 2.9 divorces per 1,000 residents. Both figures represent the lowest in the state since 1990. A survey conducted on persons older than 15 shows that 46% of the females in the state were married, compared to 48% of the male population. Also, 16% of the female demographic in Arizona were either separated or divorced, compared with 12% for men.

Does Arizona Recognize Common-law Marriages?

Arizona does not acknowledge common-law marriages created within the state. Couples who enter a common-law marriage in a state where it is legal may be entitled to traditional marital rights or dissolution under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Couples trying to prove the legality of a common-law marriage may face scrutiny in Arizona courts.

What is a Domestic Partnership in Arizona?

Domestic partners are individuals who share the same residence with their sexual partner but are not married. It is legally recognized in Arizona. Under the Arizona Revised Statute 36-3231, domestic partners are allowed to make legal decisions regarding healthcare or surrogacy. Domestic partnerships are made official by filing a declaration of domestic partnership or civil union at the city registry.

Partners applying for domestic partnerships must meet certain criteria in order to qualify. Criteria for qualification include

  • Both partners must be at least 18 years old
  • Neither partner is married
  • Neither partner is in an existing domestic partnership or civil union c
  • Partners are not related by blood
  • Sharing a common residence within Arizona
  • Sharing responsibility for each other’s welfare

Arizona law permits couples who are in a domestic partnership to enjoy the benefit of having a legal right to visit their partner in a healthcare facility. Other benefits which may be associated with domestic partnerships in Arizona are not required by law, such as inheritance rights, health insurance coverage, or spousal maintenance.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement in Arizona?

Cohabitation is a term that describes individuals living together as if they were married. It is considered an alternative to marriage as it is less expensive, or an option for same-sex couples who cannot legally marry. The Arizona Supreme Court has determined that cohabitation “is not simply the gratification of sexual passion, but to live or dwell together, to have the same habitation.” The difficulty with cohabitation in Arizona is the law may not recognize it as a legal union. Therefore the benefits are limited and may not include pension, retirement, child support, or social security in case of separation or death of a partner.

Arizona Common-law Marriage and Palimony

Alimony is financial support paid to a spouse during divorce or separation. Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage. Therefore there are no laws governing the allocation of palimony. Palimony entitlements in a common-law marriage are down to the discretion of Arizona courts.

What Are the Requirements for a Common-law Marriage in Arizona?

Arizona does not allow common-law marriage. However, common-law marriages established outside Arizona can be recognized if they meet the state’s requirements. Some of these requirements include:

  • Both parties must be legally recognized adults
  • Both parties must not be in any legal marriage contract within the state or in another jurisdiction
  • Both parties must not be related by blood in a manner that can legally bar marriages.

Arizona couples wishing to enter into a domestic partnership may submit applications to their respective City Clerk Departments. For example, Phoenix couples can file a domestic partnership application available at the City Clerk's Department and submit it to the office located at:

City Clerk Department
200 West Washington Street, Suite 1500
Phoenix, AZ 85003-1611
Phone: (602) 262-6811

Third-party websites provide an alternative to obtaining public vital records. These non-governmental platforms come with intuitive search tools that help simplify the process of accessing single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain public marriage records, requesters may need to provide:

  • The full name of both spouses (include first, middle, and last names)
  • The date the marriage occurred (month, date and year)
  • The location where the marriage occurred (city and county)

How many years do you have to Live Together for Common-law Marriage in Arizona?

Arizona does recognize common-law marriages within the state. No matter how long a couple has lived together in Arizona, their union will not be regarded as valid without a certificate. Common-law marriages established in Colorado, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, D.C, Montana, Iowa, or Kansas will be legal in Arizona. In the event of separation or death, the surviving partner may not be entitled to their spouse’s estate without a will designating them as beneficiaries.

How Do You Prove common-law Marriage in Arizona?

The first criteria in establishing a common-law marriage in Arizona is that the marriage must originate in a state where it is legal. Couples in Arizona who live together and have children without a certificate will not be considered legally married. The following are ways in which a couple may prove common-law marriage.

  • Documents showing the couple have a child/children together
  • Documents showing joint financial statements
  • Documents showing joint ownership of property
  • Insurance policies were taken out together
  • Official records listing the other party as a spouse or partner
  • Documents showing the couple share financial expenses. Such as credit card statements, loan documents, or mortgages.

How Do You Prove common-law Marriage in Arizona After Death?

To prove a common-law marriage for survivors' benefits. The surviving partner must provide statements from blood relatives of the deceased spouse declaring the existence of the marriage. In the case where both spouses are deceased, a statement from the blood relatives of both partners may be provided to affirm the existence of the marriage.

Do Common-law Marriages Require a Divorce?

In case of separation, couples in a legal common-law marriage may petition for a divorce. This involves filing divorce documents and paying a fee at the Superior Court in the county where the couple resides. The divorce is legal when the court orders a divorce decree.

Does a Common-law Wife Have Rights in Arizona?

The legality of a common-law marriage depends on compliance with the requirements of the place where the relationship was established. While Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage, wives in a legal common-law marriage may be entitled to spousal support or child support in case of a divorce.

Can a Common-law Wife Collect Social Security in Arizona?

A wife who is in a legal common-law marriage that is recognized by the courts may be entitled to social security. To qualify for spousal and survivor benefits, the couple must live in a state where their common-law marriage is recognized. The couple must also be able to prove to Social Security that they are in a relationship. Couples may submit documents such as mortgages, bank records, or insurance policies.

Couples must complete a Statement of Marital Relationship form and provide a Statement Regarding Marriage from a blood relative attesting to the marriage's existence. A common-law wife may collect survivor benefits by submitting a Statement of Marital Relationship form by themselves, one from a blood relative, and two from blood relatives of the deceased.

Are Common-law Wives Entitled to Half in Arizona?

Due to Arizona’s laws against common-law marriages, the rules that apply to legal common-law wives in Arizona are determined by the laws of the state where the civil union took place. More often, common-law wives may be allocated one-third of the properties during separation or divorce. However, ownership of property is strictly determined by the name on the title deed. If a husband has bought the property in his wife’s name, the legal owner of the property is the wife, regardless of who paid for it. A legal will is the most assured way of receiving survivor benefits.

How Do You Get A common-law Marriage Affidavit in Arizona?

Due to Arizona’s laws against common-law marriage, it is not possible to obtain a marriage affidavit in the state. Common-law affidavits are signed by both spouses. The participant and common-law spouse both must complete and sign the Affidavit of common-law Marriage. Both signatures must be witnessed by a notary, an enrollment or change form must be completed and submitted with the required documentation. Some of the statements included in a common-law affidavit include:

  • The state where the couple agreed to be united
  • The date when the decision was made
  • Any previous marriage relationships. If there are such marriages, the dates and supporting documents must be provided
  • Proof that both parties are 18 years old or older

What is Considered Common-law Marriage in Arizona?

Current laws in Arizona prohibit common-law marriage and do not recognize couples who have lived together in Arizona without a marriage license. When couples who began a common-law marriage in Arizona break up, they are not entitled to a divorce and the benefits that come therewith. There is no spousal support or property division for couples without a marriage license in Arizona. However, they may be able to settle child custody and child support at Family Court.

Is a Domestic Partnership the Same as a common-law marriage?

A domestic partnership is not the same as a common-law marriage in Arizona. Domestic partners have certain rights, although limited, while common-law union originating in the state is not recognized at all. Domestic partners have to file paperwork in order to state their union while common-law couples don’t. A domestic partner has the right to visit their partner in a jail or healthcare facility. A domestic partner may also be entitled to insurance coverage by their partner. These rights are not extended to couples cohabiting together without a license.

Does the Federal Government Recognize Arizona Common-law Marriages?

Couples who successfully prove a legal marriage in another state will qualify for all marital benefits. Couples who are in a legal common-law marriage are eligible for federal benefits as a married couple. Obtaining a domestic partnership requires filling out a form, paying the required fees, and taking the information to a nearby city hall.