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About Marriage Records

Find the information you need with a marriage records search

A marriage record is a document that certifies a legally valid marriage. A legal marriage affords both parties several advantages, including various tax benefits, along with hospital visitation rights.

Traditionally, marriage is a declaration that two people intend to remain together for the rest of their lives. Even if the couple has a wedding or other ceremony to mark the event, the 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 an annulment or divorce settlement.

There are several necessary steps to obtain a valid marriage certificate. First, the couple that intends to marry must apply for a marriage license. The license is available at a local clerk's office, usually the town or county clerk, although this varies by municipality. Some states may even allow the couple to complete an online application.

The marriage license application contains the couple's personal information, including current names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and a notification that any previous marriages have ended either through death, divorce, or annulment.

The couple must meet all state requirements for marriage. This includes reaching the legal age for marriage (typically eighteen, or with the consent of a parent or judge if someone is underage), immunization and vaccination records, and, in some states, blood test results. The requirements for marriage differ from state to state, so what's mandatory in one state may not be required in another. The cost of the marriage license also varies from state to state.

Once the application has been approved and the couple pays a small fee, they will receive a marriage license. They are then legally allowed to proceed with the wedding. After an officiant recognized by the state performs the ceremony, the couple will receive a marriage certificate. The officiant, the newlyweds, and one or more third party witnesses sign the marriage certificate.

The marriage certificate is proof that the ceremony took place, and is a separate document from the marriage license. In order for the marriage certificate to be legally valid, it must be filed at the courthouse that granted the marriage license after it has been signed.

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.

Why search marriage records?

There are many reasons you may need to obtain a copy of your marriage record. This includes name changes, obtaining insurance benefits, filing taxes, buying a home, and, if applicable, immigration status changes. You will also need a marriage certificate in order to obtain a divorce or annulment, or to claim life insurance or survivor's benefits after a spouse's death.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires multiple records in order to process a request for a name change. These records can include former names and aliases, your social security number, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and/or divorce certificates.

A marriage certificate is legal proof that a couple is married, which can be required 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 you can prove with a marriage certificate. A valid marriage can also protect your financial interests in cases of joint property ownership.

When one person in the union is not a natural-born or legal U.S. citizen, the marriage certificate will allow him or her to start the process to become a U.S. citizen.

If you choose to end your marriage, either through annulment or divorce, you will need a copy of your marriage certificate. And in the case of the death of a spouse, a marriage certificate may be required to claim life insurance or survivor's benefits.

Where can I find marriage records?

There are four main ways to obtain a copy of your marriage records. Each method will require a small fee to receive your marriage certificate.

Certain actions, such as a legal name change, require a certified copy of your marriage record. You may have a decorative copy or a photocopy, but this will not be accepted as proof by most government agencies.

The easiest way to obtain a copy of your marriage records is to locate them online. You will need to find the municipality that granted your marriage certificate. Online applications can be relatively quick, and they typically provide you with a copy within five to seven days.

You can also visit the courthouse that keeps the record 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 know 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 marriage records that are not your own, you'll need to know some basic information for 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 the public record and can be obtained by anyone who pays a small fee.

This website provides you with the tools to easily perform a marriage record search.