International Marriages in Arizona

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International Marriage in Arizona

Many Arizonans choose to have a destination wedding in places like Mexico or the Caribbean. Additionally, many Arizonans are from somewhere else, and a good number of immigrants who married in their homelands before coming to the United States. Are those marriages valid in Arizona?

Others may have some sort of a defect in their wedding ceremony that makes them question whether they actually were married. Maybe they find their officiant wasn’t really authorized to marry them or didn’t file the certificate. Maybe they neglected to get a wedding license. Are those marriages valid in Arizona?

If you have questions about the validity of your marriage, we have some answers here, but it may be best to consult with an attorney.

International Marriages, Part I: Valid there, valid here

A.R.S. § 25-112(A) should give peace of mind to most people who married in a foreign country. The law simply says that if the marriage was legal where you got married, Arizona recognizes it as a legal marriage.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you were married in a church in Phoenix or a beach in Jamaica. As long as your marriage was legal where it was performed, you are married under Arizona law.

There is an exception—the marriage has to be one that is legal in Arizona.

For instance, Arizona does not allow first cousins under the age of 55 to marry; some states and countries do. If first cousins in their 20s marry, Arizona will not recognize the marriage even if it was legal where it took place. There are a few other marriages that are invalid and will not be recognized in Arizona, including, most commonly, a marriage where one party was not yet divorced from their first spouse when they remarried.

International Marriages, Part II: Invalid there may be valid here. 

But even if a marriage is invalid where it took place, it may be legal here if it would have otherwise complied with Arizona law. The famous case is one where an Arizona couple had a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

They believed their officiant was licensed to perform the ceremony—she was not. Under Mexican law, that meant the marriage was not valid. But under Arizona law, if one party has a good faith belief that the officiant is licensed to marry the parties, Arizona can recognize the marriage as valid. So in that case, the Court of Appeals instructed the judge hearing the case to determine if the wife genuinely believed the officiant could marry the couple, and if the court determined she did, the judge should consider the marriage valid in Arizona.

Out-of-State Marriages: Same rules apply as those for international marriages.

The same rules for international marriages apply to marriages performed in another state. Fewer people ask about this because most people are aware that if they married in California, they do not get divorced by simply moving to Arizona.

But, like international marriages, if a marriage is void under Arizona law, Arizona law will not recognize it. This was a big issue not too long ago with same-sex marriages that were legal in some states but not in Arizona. That changed in 2014 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriages.

The other types of void marriages (first cousin, parent-child, sibling, bigamy, underage, etc.) remain an issue, but are much more rare.

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