Australian Rapper Iggy Azalea has been making headlines for months now on her recent spike in musical success, feuds with other females in the business, and her post-work "activities." However, recently TMZ reported many more headlines with a bit of a mix-up.
Her "ex-boyfriend," Hefe Wine, filed for a divorce. Wait a minute…divorcing…from your “boyfriend?” That’s not possible. Wine insists that the couple had a common-law marriage, but Azalea claims that they did not. In such case, before addressing the potential "divorce," what are the legal difficulties when one person claims that there is a common-law marriage and the other does not? What are the legal obligations that each party has? What makes common-law marriage so particular? What are the limited number of jurisdictions within a common-law marriage when it's legally contracted? Is it common to have a misunderstanding where one party believes that they are married and the other does not?
We touched base with Kaine Fisher, local attorney and Chairman of the Family Law Department at Rose Law Group, and asked him to weigh in on high profile “common law” potential divorce.
“In the United States, there are nine states that recognize the idea of “common law” marriage. The situation posed by Izzy Azalea’s relationship with Hefe Wine (aka Maurice Williams) is exactly the reason Arizona is not one of them.
With a traditional statutory marriage, proving the marriage is easy. There is a marriage license and a marriage certificate. There was a ceremony at which many guests (i.e. witnesses) attended. The wife is likely to have changed her name. Such is not the case in a common law marriage. The evidence proving a common law marriage is usually not as definitive.
I don’t anticipate there will be a dispute about the fact Izzy and Hefe cohabitated – at least that does not seem to an issue. But in Texas, it seems as though that might not be the only consideration. As is typical in “common law marriage” states, the couple must have intended for their relationship to be, and be considered, a legally valid marriage. In other words, they must have agreed to have that type of relationship and they must have held themselves out to the public to be husband and wife.
I am interested to see what evidence Hefe will present to prove the parties agreed to live as husband as wife. Will the Judge hear pillow talk between the parties? Will he see their private intimate e-mails? Will Hefe parade the parties’ celebrity friends in front of the Judge? He better have something concrete because Judge’s are rarely moved when the success of the case boils down to "he said she said”.
You can bet the parties in a common law marriage dispute will have different perceptions about whether they intended to be married depending on how it impacts them financially. In this case, we’re talking about millions of dollars related to Izzy’s newfound musical success. It should be no surprise Izzy claims they never intended to be married. It should be no surprise Hefe claims they were. Who can blame him? If he prevails, he stands to receive half of Izzy’s fortune.
I am fascinated by the concept of common law marriage.
I live and practice in a land of no fault divorces. I live and practice in a land where common law marriages are not recognized. There are no juries in Arizona to decide whether two people intended to be married even though they did not actually formalize it, or whether one spouse did something wrong to warrant a divorce. Perhaps my practice would be a lot more interesting if Arizona had these things. But frankly, when I think about the headache these proceedings cause, I am truly grateful I practice law where I do.”
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