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If I Never Turned in My Marriage Certificate, Am I Legally Married Or Not?
A big part of the marriage process is registering the marriage with the local government. When this has not occurred, the legal status of the marriage may be left in a state of confusion.
Per most state laws, the marriage is still considered valid whether the license has been filed with the court or not.
Stepping Down the Aisle
In order for a marriage to be recognized by law, both parties must obtain a marriage license from the clerk of the court at their local courthouse.
Obtaining a marriage license requires providing identification and paying a license fee. The amount of time the license is valid varies by state. In Florida, a marriage license is valid for 60 days after it’s acquired.
At the time of the marriage ceremony, both spouses and the officiant must sign the license, certifying that the marriage did in fact occur.
After signing, the license must be returned to the courthouse. There, it will be filed, and the marriage will be officially registered with the government.
Why Does Filing Matter?
Filing the marriage license is an important step in establishing the legality of the marriage. While most people choose to marry for emotional reasons, the choice to join with another person in matrimony has far-reaching legal and economic consequences.
When the legal status of two individuals changes from single to married, many other areas of their lives will change as well, including:
Property and asset ownership
With so many elements at stake, the legal status of the marriage is important.
Never Filed, Never Married?
In many states, including Florida, the officiant is the party legally responsible for returning the signed license to the courthouse within ten days.
There are many reasons why a marriage license may not have been filed promptly with the courthouse. It might have been forgotten, lost, destroyed, or allowed to expire.
A filed license is the way that the government is notified that the marriage occurred. Without this notification, there’s no way for the legal status of the spouses to change and for all the accompanying legal consequences to take effect. However, if all other requirements are met, it is still a valid and legally binding marriage.
How to Register the Marriage
If you’ve been married but your marriage license was never filed with the courthouse, it’s important to take steps to ensure your marital status is recognized by the law.
If your marriage was properly performed and the signed license was simply not returned to the courthouse within ten days, it’s not a problem in Florida.
Although the license is regarded as expired, the ten-day window exists so that the marriage can be recorded promptly and the impending legal changes can begin to go into effect.
An expired license can be returned to the courthouse at any time. Once it’s turned in, it will be filed and the marriage will be recognized as dating from the day documented on the license.
If your license was never filed and cannot be found, more steps must be taken for the marriage to be recognized legally. You can request a duplicate license, which then needs to be signed again by both spouses and the officiant.
How to End the Marriage
If you want to end your marriage, it’s harder to do if the license was never filed. While trying to obtain an annulment might sound tempting, the state of Florida has specific requirements for what type of marriage can qualify for annulment.
Despite the lack of legal status, divorce is typically still the requirement. In this type of tricky legal situation, it’s best to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer who can walk you through the necessary steps to establish and then dissolve the marriage.