What is a Common Law Marriage?
Most people believe that if you live or co-habitate with a person for 7 years, you are as good as married or at least in the eyes of the state, you are married. You may have not convinced your mother who wants you to have a ceremony and make it “official,” that you are married but in some states (as long as you meet the requirements) you are hitched through a common law marriage. Common law marriages do NOT apply to every state.
Here is the situation in Arizona regarding Common Law Marriage:
Arizona does not recognize common-law marriages created within the state. A.R.S. § 25-111. However, Arizona does recognize common-law marriages that are validly contracted in other jurisdictions. A.R.S. § 25-112. Validity may depend on compliance with the requirements of the place where the relationship was established. Further, while Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage, parties who have resided together may have remedies in contract law to receive reimbursement for property purchased together and similar claims. Confused? We don’t blame you, contact an experienced Avondale Family Law Attorney with additional questions regarding common law marriages in Arizona.
Each state does have specific “guidelines” and conditions as to the relationships that constitute common law marriage. If a couple meets the criteria according to the law, and lives in a state that recognizes common law marriage, that couple is legally married in every way. Here’s what makes common law marriage interesting: a couple is legally married under this law, even if they do not hold a marriage license. A couple can use the same last name, call each other Mr. and Mrs. / husband and wife, and file joint tax returns. Couples “married” by common law basically live by the same “rules” as a couple married in the traditional manner; therefore, even though there was never a wedding ceremony or marriage license, a couple bound by common law marriage that wants to split must get a divorce.
This marriage in a common law situation actually is known as an “informal marriage” or a “marriage by habit” and is a contractual joining of a couple. Common-law marriage is often confused with “domestic partnership” or other long-term relationships where a couple cohabitates for many years. Just because a couple live together and “act” like they are married, unless they have the official contract / union by common law in their state, they are just 2 people living together for a really, really long time.
If you do not live in a state with common law marriage, it doesn’t matter how many years you live with your partner. You may have a personal commitment to one another, love each other unequivocally, yet there is nothing legally binding. Some couples decide they do not want to get married, but instead live together like they were married — sharing bills, combining assets, sharing accounts, buying a home, building equity. What happens if the couple splits? If their relationship was never recognized by their state as a common-law relationship/marriage, they are really back to boyfriend-girlfriend-we-might-as-well-have-only-been-dating-two-weeks stage of their relationship. It is difficult to end a long-term relationship when the break-up makes way for disputes about the division of property.
A common law marriage can only exist if you are a couple who lives together for a required/significant length of time in a state that recognizes these marriages. If you hold yourself to the standard of a married couple in your community or employment, a court may view your situation as one that may be deemed a common law marriage.
Finding yourself in a “gray” area regarding Common Law Marriage? Seek the advice of an experienced Arizona family law lawyer. Many offer FREE CONSULTATIONS and can give you advice, point you in the right direction, or help you resolve any family law or common law marriage situations that you may have.
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Mesa, AZ 85202
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Glendale, AZ 85308
Office: (602) 509-0955
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Tucson, AZ 85701
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Avondale, AZ 85392
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