A marriage license is generally defined as a legal document that authorizes a couple to formally enter into a marriage. Although the requirements to obtain a marriage license will vary by state, they are usually issued by either a court clerk or another state governmental authority and are legally required before a couple can get married.

Unfortunately, however, there are some instances where a marriage license can be declared invalid. An example is if one or both of the parties committed fraud in attempting to obtain a marriage license. This can have serious consequences in the future and may even serve to invalidate a couple’s marriage.

Aside from fraud, some other examples of situations that could lead to your marriage license being declared invalid include the following:

  • Entering into a sham marriage arrangement (e.g., to obtain lawful permanent resident status or gain entry into the United States through marriage);
  • Forcing or threatening someone to obtain a marriage license in order to get married;
  • Marrying another individual while that person is already married to a third party (e.g., bigamy);
  • Providing false information or false documentation on a marriage license application;
  • Obtaining a marriage license without admitting to the court clerk or other state authority that the couple is related (e.g., incest); and/or
  • Getting a marriage license without consent if a couple is underage or one of the party’s is mentally incapable of understanding the meaning of marriage.

How Are a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate Different?

Although they sound similar, a marriage license and a marriage certificate are actually two completely separate legal documents. As discussed above, a marriage license is a legal document that a couple applies for before they tie the knot. A marriage license is typically issued by a court clerk and is the document that enables a couple to enter into marriage based on the laws of their state or local jurisdiction.

One other important factor to keep in mind regarding marriage licenses is that they will only remain valid for a certain period of time. They are usually subject to specific requirements in accordance with state marital laws. If the couple does not get married within the time frame specified by their license, then they will need to apply for a new one before getting married in most states.

On the other hand, a marriage certificate is a legal document that certifies that a couple is in fact married. Unlike a marriage license, a marriage certificate never expires and can be used as proof of the couple’s marriage throughout the remainder of their lives.

Marriage certificates can also be used as proof if one spouse decides to take the other spouse’s last name and they need to provide proof of their name change.

When Can a Marriage License Be Declared Invalid?

As previously discussed, a marriage license can be declared invalid for a number of different reasons, such as if the couple was underage and did not obtain legal consent from a parent, legal guardian, or a judge before applying for a marriage license. A marriage license can also be declared to be invalid for instances involving fraud, misrepresentation, and supplying false information to obtain a marriage license from an issuing authority.

Another example of a situation in which a marriage license may be deemed invalid is if the couple creates or forges a fake marriage license in order to get married. For instance, if the parties present a copy of a fake marriage license to a magistrate to immediately get married, then the couple’s marriage and marriage certificate can be invalidated if it is discovered the initial marriage license was fake.

This type of scenario frequently arises when a couple is attempting to circumvent state marriage requirements for reasons related to issues with a person’s lawful immigration status or to avoid paying certain taxes. Such conduct can lead to being charged with marriage fraud, which is considered to be a federal offense that has legal consequences, such as criminal penalties.

Additionally, a marriage license will also be deemed to be invalid if one or both parties provides false information on a marriage license. Again, this can happen when the parties are lying about their ages in order to get married without parental consent.

What If We Were Married, but Later Discovered That Our License Was Not Valid?

The answer to this question will largely depend on the circumstances that led to the marriage license being deemed invalid in the first place. For instance, in most cases, if the parties to the marriage made a good faith and reasonable effort to obtain a valid marriage license, then they can typically just re-apply for a new and legally valid marriage license.

A couple may be able to demonstrate their good faith and reasonable effort to obtain a valid marriage license through an affidavit of marriage form. Briefly, an affidavit of marriage form is a legally binding document that proves a legal marriage exists between two persons.

On the other hand, if a marriage license is declared invalid due to misrepresentation, false information, or fraud, then the parties may be denied a new and legally valid marriage license to replace the invalid one. If it is discovered that either both or one of the parties to the marriage committed one of these offenses or another similar offense, then this can lead to serious legal ramifications.

For example, one of the spouses may bring a private lawsuit against the other spouse in civil court and sue for damages based on fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and/or other related claims.

In some cases, an invalid marriage license can even have an effect on one or both of the parties to the marriage immigration status (e.g., if one of the party’s is not a U.S. citizen or if only one of the party’s holds lawful permanent resident status). In such a case, an invalid marriage license could result in a removal hearing or a loss of immigrant status. This is especially true if a party used the marriage as the main reason to gain entry into the U.S.

In addition, even where the parties simply made a mistake on a marriage license, it could lead to problems in the future if the mistake is not fixed in time and the parties know about it. This issue comes up a lot in connection with immigration cases. Generally speaking, a spouse who is legally in the United States through marriage should contact an immigration lawyer immediately for further advice on how to resolve such issues.

Finally, if a couple is able to apply for a new and legally valid marriage license, they will be permitted to hold a short, civil ceremony at the courthouse to formally legalize their marriage. A marriage ceremony is one of the requirements of a valid marriage in most states. Many municipalities throughout the U.S. have a magistrate judge available to perform marriage ceremonies on a daily basis.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for an Invalid Marriage License?

A marriage license is one of the main requirements for creating a legally valid marriage. It is extremely important that this license be deemed valid since a person’s marital status can impact many areas of their life, such as if they are filing joint income taxes.

Thus, if you suspect that your marriage license is invalid for some reason, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local family lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced family law attorney will be able to explain the marriage laws in your area and can discuss the requirements to obtain a legally valid marriage license in your state.

Your attorney can also make sure that you provide enough supporting evidence to show that you and your spouse intended to enter into a legally valid marriage. They can also show that no attempts at fraud or other crimes were made in requesting a marriage license.

In addition, if you believe that your spouse may have committed fraud or some other crime when applying for your marriage license, your attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed under such circumstances as well.