Does Arizona recognize common law marriages?

The definition of marriage has been a hotly debated issue in recent Arizona politics. Perhaps one of the most controversial issue surrounding that debate has been regarding same-sex marriages. Currently, Arizona law only recognizes the legal union of a man and a woman as a legitimate married couple. As spelled out in the state statute, a legal marriage in Arizona is required to have a ceremony that is performed by a duly licensed and authorized person and must include a marriage license.

Arizona currently does not recognize common law marriages. However, the state will recognize common law marriages formed by couples in states where that practice is observed. One interesting point about this exception is that Arizona will invalidate the legality of those common law marriages if an Arizona resident attempts to evade state marriage laws by moving to another state or country.

Another notable exception to Arizona's marriage laws can be found under the Navajo Tribal Code. Arizona recognizes common law marriages formed by Navajo tribal members. Nonetheless, proof of the common law marriage must still be issued by the Navajo Nation of Vital Records in order to be recognized by the state.

One of the biggest advantages that married couples enjoy versus their unmarried counterparts is the concept of community property. Under this concept, both spouses share equally in the possession of most property acquired during their marriage. This can be a tricky subject for unmarried couples who have been together for a long time and have both contributed to the purchase of major items.

Cohabitating couples need to know that their property rights will be preserved regardless of their relationship status. Your Arizona family law attorney can assist you with developing a cohabitation agreement that best suits your particular needs. Among other things, this document can specify the property or assets you have brought into the relationship and how those items should be distributed upon separation.

Source: Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, "509.00 Legal Marriage" Dec. 18, 2014

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