DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS IN ARIZONA

I have recently been asked, by a number of people, whether Arizona recognizes Domestic Partnerships, and how it compares to marital rights.   Domestic partnerships are recognized in Arizona, but only for limited purposes, such as where a patient in a hospital is unable to make or communicate healthcare treatment decisions.  Arizona Revised Statutes §36-3231 provides that, in cases where the patient is unmarried, a domestic partner may be allowed to act as a surrogate.  Certain cities in Arizona recognize domestic partnerships and have registries where partners can file a declaration of domestic partnership or a civil union, but their rights are generally restricted to visiting the other partner in a hospital or health care facility.  Some insurance companies provide options for domestic partners, and others don’t.  You would have to contact your insurance company to determine what, if any, benefits are provided.
It is important to note that there is no law in Arizona giving domestic partners the same or similar rights as a couple who is married.  By law, married couples in Arizona have inheritance rights; the right to be covered on health insurance policies; the right to make healthcare decisions for a spouse under certain circumstances; and, in the event of a divorce, the right to a fair division of community property, the right to receive spousal maintenance (if they qualify under the statute), and parental rights.  For domestic partners, however, none of those things are automatic, and some of them (such as a community propertydivision, and receiving spousal maintenance) are precluded under Arizona law.

Now that both heterosexual and same-sex couples have the right to marry in Arizona and all other states, domestic partnerships and civil unions are not as favored, and the development of laws around these forms of partnership has slowed.  A marriage provides far more legal protection than a domestic partnership, a civil union, or cohabitation.

If you have questions about domestic partnership law and your legal rights, I suggest that you make an appointment for a consultation with a Family Law attorney.

Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen

 

Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.

SAME-SEX FAMILY LAW — WE CAN PROTECT YOUR INTERESTS

Our attorney, Gary Frank, has long been a staunch supporter of civil rights, including marital rights for the LGBT community.  Now that same-sex marriage is finally a reality, it is important for gay and lesbian couples to understand their new rights, and how to protect themselves in the unfortunate event that a divorce or separation occurs.

We can help you preserve your property before a marriage takes place by preparing a Prenuptial Agreement.  And we can protect you throughout the divorceprocess by making sure you receive a fair division of property; and that spousal maintenance is awarded if a party is entitled to it under Arizona law.  If you have children, we will work hard to ensure that you come away with a legal decision-makingand parenting-time plan that is in their best interests and yours, and that child support is included. 

If divorce is inevitable, it is always a good idea to explore peaceful alternatives as a first option, before jumping headlong into an adversarial and often expensive litigation.  Mediation and collaborative divorce are two such options.  Mr. Frank is a compassionate mediator with many years of experience working with families, including LGBT couples. 

When acting as a divorce attorney, Mr. Frank encourages his clients to engage in mediation.  He will help you choose a top-notch mediator and he’ll guide you through the process, giving you the best odds of a favorable outcome.  But while mediation is often successful it does not always result in a settlement, and sometimes divorcing parties have no choice but to turn to the courts to resolve their issues.  In that scenario, Mr. Frank is a strong and experienced Family Law litigator who will fight to protect your interests.   


If you are in need of representation, or even if you’d just like a consultation to learn about your legal rights, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected].  We’d be happy to help you.

WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY LAW, “THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS”

People seem to always pine for the “good old days.”  And, sure, there is plenty to complain about today, but America in 2015 is far more tolerant, compassionate, and evolved than at any time in U.S. History — or maybe even human history.
 
When I was growing up in the 1960’s . . . 
 
 Cohabitation was scandalous;

A female who had sex before marriage was a “slut” (but the same was not true for a male – after all, he was just being a guy);
 
Children born out of wedlock were referred to as “bastards” and were shunned by society through no fault of their own;
 
Interracial marriage was against the law in most states.  An interracial couple could be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison for the mere “crime” of falling in love and getting married;

Bi-racial children were shunned, too;
 
Interfaith marriage was considered an abomination – couples who married outside of their faith were often excommunicated from their church and disowned by their families;
 
Gay marriage was not even something people could dream about.  Sodomy laws were in place in every state, making homosexuality illegal.  And those laws were used to prosecute gays.  “Coming out of the closet” meant risking becoming the victim of societal abuse, both legal and physical;
 
Divorce was not just frowned-upon – the law made it almost impossible to get out of a bad marriage.  It was not enough to show that the parties were no longer in love or that they found it impossible to live together.  To obtain a legal divorce required a husband or wife to prove sufficient “grounds,” such as abandonment, abuse, or infidelity.  Women often came away from divorce impoverished, regardless of the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.  And to be a divorced person, or a child of divorce, was seen as a public embarrassment;

Mothers were almost always awarded sole custody of the children by the divorce court.  And regardless of how active and involved a father might have been in his children’s lives – he was given only “visitation”;  

Domestic violence was rampant, as it is today.  But, back then, it was considered a parent’s right to keep his or her children in line by the use of corporal punishment, however severe.  And if a man chose to abuse his wife it was viewed as a family matter, and nobody else’s business;
 
Women had few employment opportunities.  “A Woman’s Place is in the Home” was not just a saying – societal rules were built to make sure that women remained economically helpless and subservient.  Universities had quotas for women and many jobs were off-limits, including executive-level positions in banks and corporations.  Women, no matter how capable and intelligent, were offered employment mainly as factory workers, teachers, administrators, or secretaries.  There was no “glass-ceiling” for women — instead, the ceiling was made of concrete.   So were the walls.  To break through those barriers took a herculean effort;  

For a father to stay at home and take care of the children was unheard of — it was not considered “manly.”  Fathers were locked into the role of “Provider.”  And being the sole source of income for the family was a responsibility that left little time for dads to be loving, nurturing parents to their children. 



Looking back on the “idyllic days “of the past is a fantasy.  The “good old days” weren’t really so good.  In fact, in many ways, life has never been better than it is right now.  

Want to know the truth?   These are the “good old days.”

 

Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.

 

 

THE FIRST GAY MARRIAGE IN ARIZONA

It’s a groundbreaking decision.  The U.S. District Court, on Friday, ruled that Arizona must recognize the California marriage of Fred McQuire and George Martinez. 
Both McQuire and Martinez were Vietnam veterans who lived in Arizona.  First, McQuire was diagnosed with prostate cancer (caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam); and in June of this year, Martinez was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He was given only a few months to live.  The two had been partners for over 40 years and had made a lifetime commitment to each other.  With time running out, they traveled to California and were married.  They then filed an emergency motion asking the Court to require Arizona to recognize the marriage so that McQuire could be listed as a spouse on Martinez’s death certificate.  Martinez died on August 28, 2014.  The Court’s landmark ruling makes them the first same-sex couple whose marriage is legal in this state.
The Gay Marriage issue is more than a philosophical argument.  Marriage has important legal consequences.  A married spouse is entitled to protections not granted to someone who is cohabiting.  If you are married and your spouse dies, you could be legally entitled to a portion of your deceased spouse’s estate, and you may be entitled to veteran’s benefits and Social Security survivor’s benefits.  If you are married and file for divorce, you will be legally entitled to half of the community property accumulated during the marriage.  You may also be entitled to spousal support.  On the other hand, if you are cohabiting but are not legally married, you are entitled to none of these things.  If your partner dies you are not entitled to his/her veteran’s or social security benefits, and you have no legal rights to the estate unless specifically provided by a Will.  When a cohabiting couple splits up, there is no community property, and you will not be eligible for spousal support even if your role was to give up your job and stay home to care for the children for the past twenty years.
Among those opposing Gay Marriage is the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the state of Arizona at the hearing.  Attorney James Campbell summed up their position with these words:  “The integrity of the state’s marriage definition, which has existed since the state’s inception is of the utmost importance.  It can’t change it, not even for one person.”  But that kind of twisted logic cannot withstand scrutiny.  Marriages between Blacks and Whites were illegal at the inception of Arizona’s statehood, too — and I’m sure there were those who argued that the prohibition should remain on the books because it had always been there, and that changing it would violate the sanctity of marriage — yet we had the good sense to invalidate such an inhumane law.  The ban on same-sex marriage is equally prejudicial, as well as unconstitutional, and it will be the next to fall.  That was made clear by Federal Court Judge John Sedwick who, in explaining his decision, wrote: 
“The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict and that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court heard arguments last week in same-sex marriage cases out of Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii.  Whatever ruling it makes will apply to Arizona.  Over the past few years, one Federal Court after another has invalidated bans against same-sex marriage.  Soon almost half the states in the U.S. will have legalized Gay Marriage.  The issue may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the writing is already on the wall.

The Gay Marriage debate is about dignity and human rights.  But it is about more than that.  It is also about legal rights and the protection that the law affords couples who are married.



The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, domestic partnerships, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate. Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

 

IS THE “COHABITATION EFFECT” REAL? — JUST USE YOUR COMMON-SENSE

They call it the “Cohabitation Effect”  — study after study performed over the past forty years has found that that living together before marriage leads to a much higher risk of divorce.   Some researchers have concluded that the risk of divorce is 33% higher for people who cohabit before marriage than for those who elect not to live together until they are married.

But wait — statistics sometimes lie . . . or maybe the problem is that experts can look at a set of statistics and come to an erroneous conclusion.

In a recent study the nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families looked deeper into all the old statistics and found something different.  They concluded that the age of a couple when they move in together is a stronger predictor of divorce than simple cohabitation.  The longer a couple waits to make such a serious commitment, the better the chance that the marriage will last.

Of course, it’s just common-sense.  A couple of 25-30 year-olds who decide to live together are more likely to have a lasting relationship than two 18 year-olds.  They’re older, wiser, more mature, and probably more financially independent.

Do we really need an expensive research study to provide the same advice that our grandparents would have given us for free?

Wait until you’re ready.”    


http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/the-science-of-cohabitation-a-step-toward-marriage-not-a-rebellion/284512/

Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  His office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  He can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also reach him through his website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

ARIZONA’S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN WILL BE CHALLENGED IN FEDERAL COURT

As Boomers age and a new generation takes over, public perception of Gay Marriage has undergone a massive change.  Today, the gender equality movement is gaining ground and picking up speed.  Same-sex marriage has now been legalized in seventeen states, and that number is growing.  Federal courts have thrown out Gay Marriage bans in California, Virginia, and Kentucky; and, according to the Arizona Republic, “there are (currently) more than two dozen lawsuits challenging restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples across the country.”

This week a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.  The plaintiffs claim that defining marriage “as between one man and one woman” violates the rights of Gay citizens to equal protection and due process, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  This same theory has been argued successfully in other recent cases.

What started as a trickle has become a flood.  A tsunami of tolerance.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/13/arizona-same-sex-marriage-lawsuit/6378435/

Gary J. Frank is an Arizona attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  His office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  He can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at [email protected]  You can also contact him through his website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

HERE ARE THE NEWEST STATISTICS ON COHABITATION IN THE U.S.

Couples moving in and living together, outside of marriage, was once frowned upon in our society.  Now it is commonplace, and the stigma is long-gone.  For some, cohabitation is a stepping-stone to marriage.  For others, it is an alternative to marriage.  The Center for Disease Control recently published a report on Cohabitation in America, chock-full of interesting statistics.  I have included parts of that report below.

NATIONAL HEALTH STATISTICS REPORT

April 4, 2013

“The current report presents estimates from the 2006–2010 NSFG on the first premarital cohabitation experiences of women aged 15–44 in the United States and describes trends in these data since 1995. Estimates of how long women’s first premarital cohabiting unions lasted and whether they remained intact, transitioned to marriage, or dissolved are presented.

Forty-eight percent of women interviewed in 2006–2010 cohabited with a partner as a first union, compared with 34% of women in 1995.

This report presents national estimates of first premarital cohabitations with a male partner for women aged 15–44 in the United States using the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Estimates from the 2006–2010 NSFG show that nearly one-half (48%) of women aged 15–44 had ever cohabited before marriage (Table 1). Similarly, most young couples live together first before entering marriage (1,2). Cohabitations are typically short-lived: one-half of women’s first premarital cohabitations that began in 1997–2001 became marriages and another one-third dissolved within 5 years (2).

Cohabitation has become a more frequent site for childbearing. A recent report on fertility using the 2006–2010 NSFG showed that 23% of recent births among women aged 15–44 occurred within cohabitation, a significant increase from 14% in 2002 (3). One-half of births to cohabiting women in recent years were unintended (4). Unintended births are associated with poorer social, economic, and health outcomes for both the mother and the child (5).

Researchers often frame questions on the meaning of cohabitation in terms of two possibilities: whether cohabitation serves primarily as a step toward marriage, much like dating and engagement, or as an alternative to marriage (7–9). Economic circumstances are related to the marriage decision-making process (10–15). Transitions to marriage are more likely for cohabiting women with higher levels of education and income than for cohabiting women of lower socioeconomic status (10). Economic barriers to marriage are particularly significant for cohabiting women with children (16). Other factors that influence the progression from cohabitation to marriage include relationship commitment and attitudes toward marriage (17,18).

Trends in first premarital cohabitation by subgroup are presented by Hispanic origin and race and education.

+ In more recent years, women were increasingly likely to cohabit with a partner as a first union rather than to marry directly: 48% of women interviewed in 2006–2010 cohabited as a first union, compared with 43% in 2002 and 34% in 1995 (Table 1, Figure 1).

+ The rise in cohabitation as a first union over this time period led to a lower percentage of women aged 15–44 whose first union was a marriage: 23% in 2006–2010, compared with 30% in 2002 and 39% in 1995.

+ In 2006–2010, 70% of women with less than a high school diploma cohabited as a first union, compared with 47% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Age at first premarital cohabitation

By age 18, 9% of women aged 15–44 in 2006–2010 had ever cohabited (data not shown).

By age 20, 26% of women in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 23% in 2002 and 19% in 1995.

By age 25, over one-half of women (55%) in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 52% in 2002 and 46% in 1995.

By age 30, 74% of women in 2006–2010 had cohabited, compared with 70% in 2002 and 62% in 1995.

Women with less than a high school diploma had the highest probability of cohabiting by age 25 (76%), compared with women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (36%).

Since 1995, the length, or median duration, of first premarital cohabitations has increased, regardless of whether these unions remained intact, transitioned to marriage, or had dissolved by the time of the interview. The length of first premarital cohabitations for women aged 15–44 in 2006–2010 was 22 months, compared with 20 months in 2002, and 13 months in 1995.

Outcome of first premarital cohabitation

+ Forty percent of first premarital cohabitations among women transitioned to marriage by 3 years, 32% remained intact, and 27% dissolved.

+ First premarital cohabitations among women aged 22–44 with higher education were more likely to transition to marriage by 3 years. Over one-half of cohabitations among women with a bachelor’s degree or higher had transitioned to marriage (53%), compared with less than one-third of cohabitations among women with less than a high school diploma (30%)

+ A higher percentage of first premarital cohabitations among women with less than a high school diploma (43%) had remained intact by 3 years, compared with 20% of cohabitations among women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Probability of a pregnancy during first premarital cohabitation

+ Since 1995, the probability of a pregnancy within a cohabiting union among women aged 15–44 has increased, from 15% in 1995, to 18% in 2002, and to 19% in 2006–2010.

+ Nearly one in five women in 2006–2010 (19%) experienced a pregnancy in the first year of cohabitation.

+ One out of four women (25%) who were under age 20 when they began cohabiting experienced a pregnancy in the first year, compared with about 1 out of 12 women (8%) who were aged 30–44 when they began cohabiting.

+ One-third of women with less than a high school diploma experienced a pregnancy in the first year of cohabitation (33%), compared with 5% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Probability of marriage among cohabiting women with a pregnancy

+ By 6 months, the probability of marriage among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was higher in the 1995 NSFG (32%) compared with the 2002 and 2006–2010 NSFGs (19% each).

+ The probability of marriage by 6 months among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was higher for women who were in their twenties when they started cohabiting (23%–26%), compared with those under age 20 (16%).

+ The probability of marriage by 6 months among women who became pregnant in their first premarital cohabitation was three times higher for women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (45%) than for those with less than a high school diploma (15%).

Conclusion

Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage (7–9). Childbearing outside of marriage continues to increase, and about one-half of nonmarital births occur to cohabiting women (3,30).”

* Source:  CDC Fast Stats

Gary J. Frank is an Arizona Family Law attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience.  He is a strong and compassionate advocate for his clients.  Our law firm handles all matters involving Family Law, including divorce, custody, parenting issues, child support, enforcement actions, modification actions, paternity, and grandparent and non-parent rights, as well as division of property and businesses.  If you are in need of a consultation to learn about your legal rights, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today. You can reach us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email ([email protected]), or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

TODAY’S PARENTS CAN DO IT ALL

It should come as no surprise that fathers can be loving, caring, and nurturing parents – just as mothers were always expected to be.

It should come as no surprise that mothers can excel in the business world and be family breadwinners – just as fathers were always expected to be.

In today’s society, women can be not only nurturers, but also breadwinners.  Men can be not only breadwinners, but also nurturers.  And our children are all the better for it.

The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be honored to help you.

“PREGNANT MAN” AND HIS WIFE CAN’T GET A DIVORCE IN ARIZONA

A man and woman file for divorce in Arizona. They have a child, and then two more. Custody of their children becomes a disputed issue. They ask the judge to decide. But the judge refuses. He claims the court does not have jurisdiction. Why? Because Arizona law states that a marriage is only valid if it is between a man and a woman. Same sex marriages are forbidden.
But hold on . . . we’re not talking about a same-sex marriage. The parties obtained an official marriage license based on the fact that one spouse was a man and the other was a woman. And they went on to conceive and give birth to three children.
This is where the story takes an unexpected turn.
The wife, as it turns out, did not give birth to the children. The husband did. Thomas Beatie, the husband, was born a female. Throughout his life, he always felt that he was a man trapped in a female body – even when he entered beauty pageants and worked as a model. In 2002, Mr. Beatie underwent male hormone therapy and had his upper body reconstructed. He married a year later. When his wife was unable to conceive a child, her husband was the logical choice. He still had his female reproductive organs. So, with the help of a fertility doctor, Mr. Beatie became pregnant and gave birth to three children.
Now the couple has filed for divorce. However, a Superior Court judge has concluded that the Arizona court does not have jurisdiction of the matter. He reasons that the father (Mr. Beatie) is the biological mother of the children. Thus, the marriage is not between a man and a woman and it is, therefore, invalid under Arizona law.
We no longer live in the world of our grandparents. This is the 21st century. We have become a more tolerant and enlightened society. Science has made things possible that our ancestors could never have dreamed. And the law has to grow and transform in order to keep pace with advances in technology, medical ethics, and human understanding.
Change is coming, and it is coming fast. We must be prepared to meet the challenges that the future throws at us, in order to make this world a better place.

Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years. Mr. Frank has acted as a Superior Court Judge Pro Tem and a Mediator, in addition to representing clients as a courtroom litigator in divorce, custody, paternity, enforcement, modification, move-away, grandparent rights, non-parent rights, division of property, and other Family Law matters. If you are in need of a consultation, please give us a call today at 602-383-3610. You can contact us by email at [email protected], or through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com. We’d be happy to help you.

To Marry or Not to Marry — That is the Question.

Today, more and more people are deciding to live together before marriage.  Many couples live together with no intention of ever marrying.  People frequently ask me: “Is it better to marry or to just live together without legal ties?”  My answer is always the same: “That’s a decision that is best left to each couple, after giving the matter careful consideration.”  There are pros and cons to each arrangement.  On the one hand, if there is no marriage then there will be no need for a divorce if the couple should ever break up.  On the other hand, the law does afford a married person certain protections, and there are often legal consequences when a relationship ends, even if the cohabiting couple never married.

The longer a couple has lived together, the more “things” they typically acquire.  For instance, a couple may pool their money to buy a home, or a car, or a houseful of furniture.  They may have a joint bank account, or mutual investments.  How are these things divided if and when the relationship ends?  And what happens if the parties can’t agree on a division? 

There is no “common law marriage” in Arizona.  When the cohabitation is over, the concepts of divorce and community property do not apply.  If the couple owns property or bank accounts together – and if they are fighting over them – then they may wind up in a lawsuit, even if they never married.  Rather than using a “community property theory” of division, the Court will likely use a “partnership” theory to divide these assets.  A problem may arise where the parties bought a house together but one of them paid all the mortgage payments with his/her separate income from work.  In a divorce scenario this would be an easy call and the value of the house would be split equally, since income earned by a spouse from employment during the marriage is considered “community property” (and both the husband and wife have an undivided 50% interest in all community property).

Spousal Maintenance is a statutory right that is afforded only to a married person in Arizona.  The parties may have lived together for many years, and one of them might have given up a career to be a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent, but if the parties were never married there is no right to spousal maintenance when the relationship ends.  This could put the non-married, stay-at-home partner in a real bind and make his or her life unnecessarily difficult following the break-up.

When people have children together and then separate, they may still end up in court over the issues of custody, parenting time, and child support.  The court will make custody and parenting time decisions based on the best interests of the children regardless of whether or not the parents are married.  Child support decisions will be made based on the parents’ incomes and the needs of the children, pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.  Whether the parents were ever married is not a factor.

If the parents are not married and the father is not on the child’s birth certificate, then before being given the rights of a parent, the father will have to take the extra step of obtaining a paternity order.  Only then can he ask the court for an order spelling out his custody and parenting time rights.

There are valid reasons for deciding to marry, or live together without marrying.  However, given the fact that this is an important decision with long-term consequences, it would be a good idea to consider the legal ramifications before making a final decision.

Gary Frank has practiced Family Law in Arizona for almost thirty years and has handled cases for both married, and unmarried, persons.  Contact us today for a consultation by calling our office at 602-383-3610, or email us through our website at http://www.garyfranklaw.com/.