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#506 Getting a marriage license

mp3 #506 How to Get a Marriage License in California (mp3 file)


If you decide to get married in California, you must first obtain a marriage license from the county clerk's or county recorder's office, in any of California's 58 counties. The county where you obtain your regular marriage license, does not have to be the same county in California where your marriage ceremony actually takes place. You may obtain your regular marriage license in one county, and be married in another county, just so long as both counties are in California. A California Marriage license may not be used for a marriage ceremony that takes place outside of the state of California, however. If you obtain a confidential marriage license, your wedding ceremony must take place in the .same California county where you obtain your confidential marriage license.

At the county clerk's office, you will fill out your marriage license application form. Both the man and the woman must apear in person and together, at the county clerk's or recorder's office. Most of these county offices are open Mondays through Fridays, during normal business hours. They are usually closed evenings, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

You do not need a blood test or a health exam to get a marriage license in California.

You do not have to be a United States citizen to obtain a marriage license, and you do not have to be a resident of the state of California, nor of the county where you get your marriage license. First cousins are permitted to marry in California, but persons of closer relationship may not marry such as an uncle and niece, or an aunt and nephew, of the full blood. You must be capable of giving consent to the marriage, which means that you may not be so mentally or developmentally disabled that you are not capable of giving consent, and you may not be obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you apply for your marriage license. No marriage license is issued if both parties are of the same sex.

You must also both be at least 18 years of age or older. If one or both of you are under age 18 before you may receive your marriage license, you must have the written, notarized consent of your parent or legal guardian. If your parents are divorced, it is the parent with legal custody who must give consent. Even with this written permission, a superior court judge must also decide that the proposed marriage is in your best interest, and the judge may require you to obtain counseling before signing a court order permitting you to obtain a marriage license.

The marriage license bureau at the county clerk's office will probably require you to present certain documents for verification purposes. You may need to prove who you are, with a picture of yourself and your birth date on an identification card. A driver's license from any state, with your picture on it, or a military id card, may be used for this purpose. If you are relatively young, you may need to prove that you are of legal age, at least age 18. You may prove your age, with a certified copy of your birth certificate, your passport, your school record, or your immigration or naturalization certificate. If either of you has been married before, and your former marriage ended in divorce or dissolution, you may be required to present a certified copy of your final decree of divorce, to prove that you are now legally free to marry again.

The fee for the marriage license varies slightly from one county to another, but a typical fee ranges from $69.00 on up. Usually this fee must be paid in cash at the time the license is issued; personal checks are usually not accepted.

When you have met all the requirements, your marriage license is issued to you right away, and there is no waiting period before .you may be married. The wedding ceremony may be performed the same day you receive your license, but the ceremony must be performed within 90 days after the license is issued. If it is not, then you must get a new marriage license, starting all over again.

The marriage license itself does not mean you are already legally married. After you get your marriage license, you must also have a marriage ceremony, performed anywhere in California, by a priest, minister, or rabbi of any religious denomination, or by a judge or court commissioner, or a retired judge or commissioner, or by a resigned judge or by a commissioner of civil marriages, or by members of the state senate, the state assembly, state constitutional officers, and members of congress representing a district in California, who are in office at the time of the marriage ceremony. The person who marries you will sign the marriage license, and will have at least one adult witness to the ceremony also sign it, and will then send it back to the recorder's office, in the county where you obtained your license. The license is returned there within 30 days of your wedding by the person who performs your ceremony.

If you need a certified copy of your marriage certificate, contact the county recorder's office in the county where you obtained your marriage license. If you have already been living together with the person you wish to marry, and if you want to avoid publicity regarding your marriage, you may wish to apply at the county clerk's office for a confidential marriage. In a confidential marriage, the record of your marriage is not open to public inspection, and there is no notice in the newspaper telling of your recent marriage. To learn more about confidential marriages, view SmartLaw Message #505, called "Confidential Marriages"

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