Getting married is a fairly simple process considering that it represents a lifetime commitment to each other by two people. Each state has laws establishing the rules pertaining to marriages, but one requirement that all states have is that a couple must obtain a marriage license in advance of the ceremony.
Applying for a marriage license usually requires that the couple appear at the office of a county clerk or other public official authorized by law to issue the license. They must have with them proof of age, proof of identification and, if either of them has been married before, a copy of the divorce papers or a copy of the death certificate of the former spouse.
Marriage licenses and marriage certificates, the document filed with the state by the person officiating at the wedding ceremony, contain information about the couple and the location of the marriage. There are four situations under which a marriage license search might be helpful to you.
Using marriage license searches for genealogy research
When you are conducting research into your ancestry, the marriage license issued when your parents or grandparents tied the knot could provide valuable information. A marriage license might have addresses at which the applicants for the license were living at the time it was issued and the surname of each party.
States that restrict access to their marriage license records to the parties named in them or to third parties who obtain a court order allowing them access are less restrictive with old marriage license records. For example, one state permits individuals conducting genealogy research to access marriage license that are at least 50 years old.
Checking marriage license records to terminate spousal support
If the terms of your divorce require that you pay spousal support, there might be a provision terminating your obligation when your former spouse remarries. Verifying that your former spouse remarried can be accomplished through a search of the marriage license and marriage certificate records in the state in which he or she resides. You might need to speak to an attorney if the laws of the state in which the license was obtained require a court order for you to have access to the marriage license records.
Verifying if your child has gotten married
A divorce settlement might contain a provision ending a parent's child support obligation if the child gets married. If the parent obligated to pay support does not have contact with the child, one method of finding out if a marriage has taken place is by conducting a marriage license search.
Finding out if your spouse is married to another person
States refer to the act of entering into a marriage when you are still legally married to another person as "bigamy." A bigamous marriage is void and has no legal validity. If you suspect that your spouse might have married in violation of your state's bigamy laws, you can verify the marriage through a search of the marriage license records.
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