About Marriage in Arizona

There can be no divorce without a valid marriage, of course. When a man and woman wish to marry here in Arizona, as with all states, they have specific requirements to satisfy. A.R.S. § 25-111 lists the requirements that must be satisfied:

  • The couple must participate in a marriage ceremony.
  • The couple must get a marriage license.
  • Before the license expires, the marriage must be solemnized by someone authorized to do so, such as a pastor or justice of the peace. (The marriage could also be solemnized “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.”)

Additional Requirements for a Covenant Marriage

In 1997, Louisiana became the first state to create two marital forms:  the standard marriage and the covenant marriage. The covenant marriage made its way to Arizona law in 1998. When compared to the standard marriage, there are more requirements, or formalities, when a couple enters into or exits out of a covenant marriage. A.R.S. § 25-111. Also, the couple’s marriage license reflects their covenant election and premarital counseling is a prerequisite. In a divorce, the court can only dissolve a covenant marriage when:

  • There is adultery.
  • There is a felony conviction and sentence to imprisonment or death.
  • There is abandonment of the matrimonial domicile for at least a year.
  • There is domestic violence or emotional abuse.
  • The spouses lived separate and apart continuously, without reconciliation, for at least two years.
  • The spouses lived separate and apart for at least one year after a legal separation was obtained.
  • There is habitual drug or alcohol abuse.
  • When both spouses agree to a dissolution of the marriage.

In the dissolution of a standard marriage in Arizona, by contrast, the only question to be determined by the court is whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. Essentially, if one spouse seeks an end to the marriage, whatever the reason or motivation, then the marriage may be irretrievably broken.

When Minors Marry

If the bride and groom are both adults, then they’re on their way to a happy honeymoon. If a bride or groom is a minor, or both are minors, then A.R.S. § 25-102 has additional requirements before a valid marriage can take place:

  • If a person is under age 18, then prior consent from a parent or guardian is necessary.
  • If a person is even younger, under age 16, then both prior consent of a parent or guardian and court approval are necessary. (If the parent’s don’t live together, then consent to the child’s marriage must come from the custodial parent.)

When a Marriage is Void or Prohibited

There are also void marriages and prohibited marriages in Arizona. A.R.S. § 25-101 places strict limitations on who can and who cannot marry:

  • Marriage is between a man and a woman, regardless of where the marriage took place.
  • There can be no marriages between “parents and children … grandparents and grandchildren… brothers and sisters of the one-half as well as the whole blood… uncles and nieces… aunts and nephews… first cousins.” There is an exception to first cousins marrying, however. If they are at least 65 years old they can marry. First cousins may also marry when one or both are under age 65, and get court approval based on proof that one of them is sterile and incapable of reproducing.

You may be familiar with the phrase “kissing cousins” which describes a romantic relationship between second cousins who were, and still are, permitted to marry each other.

No Common Law Marriages in Arizona

With few exceptions, a marriage that was validly contracted in another state, that complied with that state’s legalities, is also valid in Arizona. A.R.S. § 25-112. There is nothing surprising in that, as married couples move from one state to another every day for a myriad of reasons, such as employment opportunities, affordable housing, closeness to family, educational facilities, and even nicer weather.

The common law marriage is not solemnized or witnessed by someone authorized to perform a marriage and cannot be accomplished here in Arizona. A handful of states do allow common law marriages: Colorado, Utah, Texas, Montana, Kansas, Iowa, Alabama, South Carolina, and Rhode Island. In those common law states, a man and a woman hold themselves out publicly to be husband and wife, without any additional legal formalities — it is not a ceremonial marriage. Although a common law marriage cannot be entered into in Arizona, a lawful marriage entered into in a different state is enforceable here.