Before you can get married in Arizona, you must apply for a marriage license at a superior court. Whoever presides over your marriage ceremony cannot legally get the job done without an unexpired license that can be authenticated, signed, and returned for recording.
The primary person whose job it is to help you navigate the marriage application process is called the clerk of the superior court, superior court clerk, or just clerk for short. Other than the superior court judge, the clerk is the highest ranking official in the office.
The clerk will review your application, have you take an oath, and if everything looks okay to them, take your money and issue you a license to marry.
Alternative licensing officers
Sometimes deputy clerks can issue marriage licenses on behalf of their boss. Superior court clerks also have the power to assign other people to issue licenses on behalf of the court who work at satellite offices; these are typically justices of peace or city and town clerks. For instance, Maricopa is a juggernaut of a county with 14 locations, nine of which whose licensing officers are justices of the peace.
When it comes to issuing marriage licenses, your residency does not matter. The application, fees, and process is the same for all applicants. After you get your license you have the freedom to marry anywhere within the state.
The marriage license application is typically comprised of one sheet of paper. It's also an affidavit that you'll have to sign under oath. The top portion is for you, the bottom for your prospective spouse.
You'll be asked to provide your name, date of birth, place of birth, residential address, mailing address, and social security number.
Mailing address for certificate
In an addition to specifying your residential addresses separately, you'll be asked to specify a single mailing address that the clerk may use to mail you a copy of your marriage certificate after you're married.
Receiving a copy of your marriage certificate confirms that the state has properly recorded your marriage in their index and assures you have a legal document proving that you're married.
Unfortunately, getting a copy of your marriage certificate isn't automatic. You have to pay for this separately when you apply for your marriage license. It's optional, but most couples will want to have this in their records when the need arises. For instance, if you intend to change your last name after marriage you'll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate to do so.
Social security number
If you don't have a social security number, mark the portion of the application stating so. If you do have a social security number, but you don't remember it, you'll have to track it down before applying. Your application won't be processed without this number.
Your social security number is only solicited to weed out applicants who are delinquent in child support payments. It's forwarded to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), which is responsible for administering child support services.
You will not be asked to disclose your social security number on the main application affidavit. You'll provide that bit of information on a separate document. Your social security number will not be reflected on the issued marriage license or public records.
Other than to DES, your social security number won't be released to anyone unless you request in writing that it be released.
An Arizona marriage license costs $76. This flat fee is the same throughout the state.
Split license fee
While all superior courts accept cash, only some accept credit cards and checks. If you intend to pay by check, you may be required to pay a split fee where you make the check out for $74.50 along with a separate cash payment of $1.50 to cover processing fees.
Separate certificate fee
Keep in mind, the $76 only pays for the license. If you also need a certified copy of your marriage certificate mailed to you after you're married, you'll have to pay an extra $27. You can either order one or more copies when you apply or wait until after you're married.
Age 18 and above
- Parental consent is not required.
Age 16 and 17
- Obtain consent to marry from at least one parent or guardian.
Age 15 and below
- Obtain consent to marry from a parent or guardian.
- Also obtain permission to marry from a superior court judge.
Consent to marry
Consent can be given in person or in writing. Your parent or guardian can accompany you when applying for a marriage license or they can stay home and provide you a filled out consent form instead.
Who grants consent?
If you have a guardian, they are the one who must grant consent. If both your parents live together, either can grant consent. If both your parents are living, but separated, the parent who has custody must give consent.
Marital consent form
If your parent or guardian doesn't plan to accompany you to the making of the application, they'll have to grant their consent in writing using an affidavit form.
Blank affidavit consent forms can typically be picked up in advance at the superior court office. If you're going to pick up the form ahead of time, it's best you go to the superior court you plan to eventually apply in as each county designs their own forms.
If you live in a county that has multiple offices, the consent forms will be the same no matter which office you go to. The principal superior court clerk is responsible for distributing marriage-related forms to satellite offices within their county. This guarantees countywide consistency.
Once the consent form is filled out, it must be notarized. Whether consent is given in person or in writing, the same form will have to be filled out. The only difference is which official signs and authenticates it: a notary public or superior clerk.
Even if consent is going to be granted in person, a consent form can be picked up and filled out in advance in order to speed up the process upon returning to apply in office. While you're there, you can pick up a blank application as well. That'll give you time to fill everything out in advance which will make the application process go by mighty fast.
Make sure nobody signs the consent form until they're in the presence of the clerk or notary public. It's a good idea to pick up an extra copy just in case a mistake is made.
If you're 15 years old or younger, getting parental consent is part one. Part two is getting permission from a superior court judge. Oftentimes, you'll be facing a juvenile court judge of the superior court. You don't have to pick a judge from the same county you're applying in; it can be a superior court judge from any county.
While in the presence of the judge, certain conditions will have to be met before an order granting a marriage license is approved. For instance, both you and your prospective spouse may be required to attend premarital counseling. You may also be required to continue going to school. A judge can decide to waive either of these conditions and may impose any other condition he or she believes would be good for you.
When in court, you'll have to make the case for why you should marry, how you're mature enough to handle the rigors of marriage, and make it clear that you're entering marriage of your own free will and not because you're being coerced.
If the judge ultimately finds it to be in your best interest to marry, a written order will be granted that instructs any superior court clerk to issue you a license to marry. Provide this order to the clerk when you submit your application.
You will need to bring some form of identification to confirm your age. A birth certificate, baptismal record, driver's license, military ID, or passport would be sufficient.
If truth be told, Arizona law doesn't actually say that identification is required, let alone which types of identification are acceptable and unacceptable. The law only states that superior court clerks must ensure that you are as old as you say you are. Failure to execute this duty faithfully may constitute a misdemeanor offense on the clerk's part.
Superior court clerks have broad discretion to decide which forms of ID will be recognized. They also have authority to forego the ID requirement. For instance, if you look old enough to marry then you may not need to show any ID whatsoever.
Attitude and flexibility varies from clerk to clerk, so bring whatever ID you have it. If it's not a top tier federal or state-issued ID, provide some sort of official document that confirms your date of birth. Consider calling the office ahead of time to confirm its acceptability.
If you're application looks good and the clerk doesn't see any impediment to you getting married, you'll be issued a marriage license immediately. You can then get married immediately.
Once you receive your marriage license, you'll have one year to use it. This is quite a generous amount of time, as many states only allot one or two months for their licenses.
The exact date of expiration will be written or printed on your license, so you won't have to guess when it ends.
Once your license expires you can't use it. The person who presides over your marriage must reject it. You'll have to reapply, and repay the fee. Refunds will not be given.
You are not obligated to return an expired or unused license to the issuing superior court.
Arizona does not require you to undertake a blood test in order to get a marriage license.
The application does have a section where you must acknowledge via signature that you're aware information on sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is available on the county's health department website and that such diseases may be transmitted to unborn children. This is just boilerplate that everyone must acknowledge in lieu of taking a blood test.
Divorcees and widowers
Neither the superior court clerk nor the application will ask you to disclose your marital history. You do not need to bring a divorce decree or death certificate.
Obviously, you cannot marry if you're currently married or separated from your spouse. Your marital status must be single. Beyond that, any prior marriage is your private business that superior courts won't meddle in.
Prohibited family relations
You are prohibited from marrying any of the following members of your family:
- Aunt or uncle
- Niece or nephew
- First cousin, with two exceptions
Blood and adoption
The state considers whole blood, half blood, and adoptive relationships to be one and the same, and uniformly banned.
First cousin exceptions
First cousins may marry if both are 65 years of age or older or if an Arizona superior court judge approves after being shown evidence that either cousin is incapable of having children; this typically comes in the form of a physician's letter.
Arizona law spells out specific types of persons authorized to solemnize. It ultimately comes down to judges and members of the clergy.
Nearly any type of judge, justice, or judicial equivalent can solemnize. This includes any of the following judge types: judges of a court of record; district, appeals, and municipal court judges; bankruptcy and tax court judges; U.S. supreme court justices; U.S. magistrate judges; military appeals judges; and justices of the peace.
Military appeals judges are the only types that must be established in the state. Every other judge type can be based in other states and have residence in another state. Of course, they'll have to travel here to Arizona in order to preside over your marriage.
Religious figures who can solemnize include, but are not limited to, regularly ordained or licensed clergymen, which includes ministers, elders, or an authorized person whose part of any religious society or sect.
Generally speaking, Arizona law does not get involved in how any religious organization performs solemnizations and who they designate as authorized to take on such duties. As long as the religious organization says it's ok, then it's ok with the state.
The actual act of getting married is called solemnization. The person who's tasked with performing the solemnization is referred to as the officiant.
You're required to have two adult witnesses attend your ceremony. They must be at least 18 years old. The officiant cannot serve as a witness. Once the ceremony is done, both witnesses must sign the marriage license.
Witnesses come in handy if there's ever a problem with the recording of your license. For instance, they'll be able to provide testimony that your marriage actually took place.
After the ceremony
Immediately after you're married, everybody needs to sign the marriage license: that includes you, your spouse, the officiant, and both witnesses.
The officiant is required to return the marriage license to the superior court that issued it within 30 days after the ceremony. It can be handed in person or mailed. The court needs the get the completed license back in order to properly record your marriage.
Following solemnization comes the recording. Whoever solemnizes your marriage has a responsibility to make sure your marriage license is sent back to superior court that issued you your license so that the state has an official record of the event.
Until your marriage is recorded, its legality remains undetermined. Without a recording, certified copies of your marriage certificate can't be searched for, generated, and delivered.
If a marriage ceremony takes place, but there's no state record of it, did it actually happen? From Arizona's perspective, your marriage isn't real until it's recorded.
There have been cases where people have been married for years (decades even), but their officiant never turned in the marriage license for recording, so the state never knew about it. The state only had a record of a marriage license being issued, but never used.
A non-recorded marriage is not an insurmountable problem to overcome, but having to validate a marriage after the fact is a hassle best avoided.
Recording a lost marriage license
If you find yourself in the unenviable position of being married yet partnered with an officiant who lost your license, you'll have to get your marriage recorded after the fact. It's tedious, but necessary.
Following are the steps to have your marriage recorded if your marriage license has been lost:
- Return to the superior court and have the clerk reissue you the license. You won't have to fill out new paperwork, as they'll just reissue a copy of license that's on file.
- Gather everyone's signatures all over again: you and your spouse, the officiant, and both witnesses.
- Return the completed license to the clerk who will record it.
If you're unable to get all the signatures, this is where it gets messy. You'll have to apply to the superior court and request the judge order a duplicate endorsed marriage license be issued. "Endorsed" refers to the replication of your officiant's seal of endorsement.
There's no fee to go to court. When you're in front of the judge, you'll have to swear that the marriage took place by describing the event: where it happened, when it happened, and who was there.
Although both of you can go to court together, only one of you is required to attend. You could also send a representative to stand in for the both of you, but the judge will have to determine if the rep has standing to speak on your behalf.
If possible, get your officiant to show up to provide testimony and a signature. If you can bring both witnesses, it would strengthen your case immensely. Your witnesses' signatures will be solicited. Even if you can only get one witness to show up, it's better than nothing.
If the judge is satisfied, an order to reissue and record your license will be granted. Present the order to the clerk so that your license can be reissued and recorded as a duplicate endorsed marriage license.
If you're an Arizona resident who plans to get married in another state or country, rest assured that your marriage established there will be recognized here, as long as the marriage is not in violation of this state's marriage laws; specifically laws related to marriage between family members.
Evading state marriage laws
Here's an example to drive this point home. Let's say you're looking to marry your first cousin. Arizona does allow first cousin marriages under certain conditions, but if you don't meet those conditions, marry outside the state, then return to Arizona, your marriage would be considered invalid and void here.
In other words, you can't marry outside the state in order to dodge Arizona's stricter marriage laws. Although the state wouldn't have the authority to nullify your marriage, it can choose to deny its legality and refuse any benefits, rights, and legal protections a recognized marriage would enjoy.
Choose a superior court
If you've gotten this far you should be well prepared to continue your marriage license expedition. The next step is to visit a superior court to make your application. Further below is a list of every county in Arizona containing superior court locations and satellite offices, methods of contact, and business hours. Good luck to you.