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Invalid Marriage Licenses

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When is a Marriage License Invalid?

There are several marriage requirements in each state, one of which is obtaining a valid marriage license prior to the wedding.  Marriage licenses can be declared invalid for a number of reasons.  The most common basis for an invalid marriage license is probably fraud on behalf of one or both of the parties to the marriage. 

For example, the parties might enter into a fake or sham marriage, such as a fraudulent marriage arrangement for the purposes of obtaining a certain immigration status.  Or, one of the parties might claim to be divorced, when in fact they are still married. 

While the laws may vary locally, in general a marriage license can be invalidated on the following grounds:

  • Underage:  Most states require the parties to be at least 18 years of age in order to obtain a marriage license.  If not, the underage party will need their parent’s consent
  • Improper Identification:  Sometimes proof of identification is needed, such as a birth certificate or a form of photo identification (driver’s license)
  • Prior misrepresentations (fraud):  As discussed, a marriage license will be considered invalid if any of the parties provides fraudulent information
  • Medical examinations:  A few states require medical verification documents, including blood samples, proof vaccination, etc.
  • Certificates:  If one of the parties was previously married, they will need to provide documentation that they are no longer married (i.e., divorce paperwork, or a death certificate)
  • Additional documents:  In some cases, additional documentation may be required, especially if one of the parties is not a U.S. citizen
  • Waiting periods:  Some states enforce a waiting period from the time that the license is issued, until the time when a wedding can actually be held (usually around 3-5 days).  During this waiting period, the couple cannot be married.  Also, the license is usually only valid for around 30-90 days.

Thus, if any of the state requirements for a marriage license are not met, the license will not be considered valid.  This could have major consequences on the couple’s plans, so it is best to plan ahead and not leave the licensing until the last moment.

What if We Got Married, but Later Discovered that our License was Not Valid?

In most cases, if parties made a good faith, reasonable effort to obtain a valid license, they can usually re-apply for another license or prove the validity of their marriage through an affidavit of marriage.  For most couples it would be impractical to hold an additional wedding ceremony, so they can usually go to court, obtain the new license, and have a civil ceremony to make the union legal.   

On the other hand, if the marriage license was not valid due to fraud, misrepresentation, or some other type of violation, it is possible that a new license might not be issued to the couple.  In fact, discovery that a marriage was not valid could even lead to civil consequences, as one party might sue the other for fraud or other claims. 

As mentioned, a major factor with most fraudulent marriage cases is that of immigration.  An invalid marriage license could be the basis for a removal/deportation hearing, especially where the marriage is the main reason for immigrating to the U.S. (i.e., fiancé visa, family petitioning, etc.).

Thus, there should be no existence of fraud or misrepresentation regarding the marriage license.  If you are unclear about the marriage laws in your area, you may wish to consult with a lawyer before making any plans. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Invalid Marriage License?

Marriage licenses are a central requirement for a valid marriage.  If you believe that you may have an issue with a marriage license, you should contact a family lawyer for advice.  A qualified attorney in your area will be able to explain the various requirements for a valid marriage license, which can be very different from state to state.  Many other areas of life depend on a person’s marital status, so it is best to ensure that your license will be recognized by the state. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-10-2018 07:40 PM PDT

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