Marriage Records

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Marriage records are documents created when two people of legal age want to justify their relationship to family members as well as state and federal governments. Marriage has been a traditional way to declare that two people intend to remain together for the rest of their lives. Legally, marriage also affords both parties several advantages, including various tax benefits, along with hospital visitation rights.

Even if the parties have a wedding or other ceremony to mark the event, marriage isn't legally official until the state in which the marriage took place issues a marriage certificate. Once a marriage has been declared official by the state, it exists until one of the parties dies or both sides reach a divorce settlement.

The couple that intends to marry must register for a marriage license for the union to be legal. They can apply for the license at a local clerk's office, which is usually the town or county clerk, although some municipalities may differ. Some states may even allow the completion of an online application.

The parties who fill out an application for marriage need to provide personal information such as current name, date of birth, social security number, and a notification that any previous marriages have ended either through divorce or annulment.

The couple must also meet all state requirements for marriage, which include the legal age for marriage (usually 18, or the consent of a parent or judge if they are underage), immunization and vaccination records, and, in some states, blood test results. It’s important to note that the requirements for marriage differ from state to state, so what’s mandatory in one state may not be in another. The cost of the marriage license also varies from state to state.

After the requirements are met, and the couple pays a small fee, a marriage license is granted. The couple is then legally allowed to proceed with the wedding. After an officiant recognized by the state performs the ceremony, the couple then receives a marriage certificate.

The certificate is proof that the ceremony took place, and is a separate document from the marriage license. The officiant, the newlyweds, and a third-party witness then sign the marriage certificate.

The names that appear on the marriage certificate can't be changed. This rule means that if one spouse wants to take the name of the other, they need to write the name that they will have from that point onward.

Once the certificate is signed, it must be filed at the courthouse that granted the marriage license, not at the courthouse in the town where the marriage took place. After filing the certificate, the marriage is official throughout the country. According to the U.S. Constitution, once a marriage is recognized in one state, all other states must recognize it as well.

What do marriage records do?

There are many reasons you may need to obtain a copy of your marriage records, including name changes, insurance benefits, filing taxes, buying a home and, if applicable, immigration status changes.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires all of a person's vital records to process a request for a name change. These records include former names and aliases, a social security number, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce certificates.

A marriage certificate provides proof that a couple is officially married, which is a requirement for that couple to be on the same health or life insurance policy. If a couple wants to earn the tax benefits of marriage and file a joint return, they will also need legal proof of their union.

Also, getting approved for a home loan is easier if two people are married, which also requires evidence in the form of a marriage certificate. Finally, if one person in the union is not a natural-born or legal U.S. citizen, the marriage certificate will allow him or her to become one.

Where can I find marriage records?

There are four main ways to obtain a copy of your marriage records. If you need to use them for anything official, you must make sure to obtain a certified copy of any documents you find. Each method will require a small fee to complete your request.

The easiest way to obtain a copy of your marriage records is to find them online. You can search the Internet for websites that provide vital records. Online applications are also relatively quick, and they provide you with a copy within five to seven days.

You can also visit the courthouse that keeps the records of your marriage license. This method is the fastest way to obtain a copy of marriage records and usually takes less than an hour.

Marriage records are also available by mail. You’ll need to learn where the records are kept and then send an application to obtain an official copy. Also, you'll usually need to provide a copy of your driver’s license or state identification card to get these records through the mail.

Finally, you may be able to request a copy over the phone. Contact your local courthouse for assistance.

If you're looking for public marriage records that aren't your own, you'll need to know the vital information of the parties involved, including names, dates of birth (and death if applicable), address history and any other type of record you can find.

The more information you have on the parties, the more likely you'll be able to obtain their marriage records. Unless there are extremely unusual circumstances, marriage records are part of public record and obtainable by anyone who pays a small fee.