A valid marriage in California is defined as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman. This requires the consent of the parties and that both parties are capable of entering into a contract. Remember, marriage is a contract and consent alone does not constitute a marriage nor does consenting to a marriage make it valid. Consent must be followed by solemnization, authentication, and the issuing of the license. The license must be recorded in the place (county) where the solemnization and authentication took place. All of these elements must be present to have a California valid marriage.
Solemnization and Authentication
The solemnization and authentication process for a valid marriage can be administered by any of the following:
- An authorized religious person of any religious denomination,
- An active or retired judge,
- An active or retired court commissioner,
- A state or federal legislator representing a district in California,
- A county supervisor, or
- A duly-elected city mayor.
This is not a civil ceremony but merely an appearance for the man and wife to declare that they take the other party as his or her spouse. There must be a minimum of two witnesses to this declaration. After the solemnization, the person solemnizing the marriage must return the license within ten days completely filled out to the county where the license was issued. A marriage license will then be issued by the county clerk’s office.
The man and woman consenting must be an unmarried male of the age of 18 years or older, and an unmarried female of the age of 18 years or older, and not otherwise disqualified. Both must be capable of consenting to and consummating marriage.
An unmarried male or female under the age of 18 years is capable of consenting to and consummating marriage if each of the following documents is filed with the county clerk issuing the marriage license:
- The written consent of the parents of each underage person, or of one of the parents or the guardian of each underage person or,
- A court order granting permission to the underage person to marry, obtained on the showing the court requires. If it appears to the satisfaction of the court by application of a minor that the minor requires a written consent to marry and that the minor has no parent or has no parent capable of consenting, the court may make an order consenting to the issuance of a marriage license and granting permission to the minor to marry. The order shall be filed with the county clerk at the time the license is issued.
A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state. A marriage entered into in another state or country can qualify as a valid California marriage.
California does not recognize “common law marriage.” The mere fact that two people live together – even if the act like “married people” will not give them legal marital status. There is one exception, however. If the parties became married via another state’s common law statues, and they moved to California, then California will recognize the parties as married. A common law marriage from another state can qualify as a California valid marriage.
Is my marriage in Mexico a valid marriage? Yes, but understand that like most countries, Mexico has both civil and religious marriages. Only a civil marriage is recognized as legal in Mexico. You don’t need to engage in a religious ceremony but if you omit the civil ceremony, the marriage will not be legal.
Valid Mexican Marriage
The following are the legal requirements for a valid Mexican marriage:
- Consent: If you are under the age of 18, you cannot get married in Mexico without parental consent. With parental consent, boys have to be at least 16 and girls need to be at least 14 years of age.
- Residency: You don’t need to be a Mexican resident to get married.
- Four Witnesses: You will need to have 4 witnesses present at the legal ceremony, and they must have valid identification; a valid Passport or government-issued identification.
- Documents: All documents must be translated into Spanish; notarized by your nearest Mexican Consulate and; be “Apostilled” in the country where you live by the appropriate.
- Marriage Application Forms: These forms are attained from the local registry office in Mexico. You will need to specify whether you will get married under joint or separate property on this form.
- Passport: Complete Passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of application.
- Travel or Resident Visas: Original and copies of Your Visitor’s Permit (FMM) which was completed at the port of entry or, if you are resident in Mexico, a copy of your resident permit.
- Birth Certificates: These will need to be Apostilled and translated by an approved translator.
- Divorce Decree/Death Certificate: If either spouse was previously married, or either partner is widowed, copies of the Divorce Decree or Death Certificate will be required for presentation.
- Chest X-Rays: The plates from the chest x-rays. The x-ray must be done locally in Mexico.
- Blood Test Results: Written results of the blood test, in Spanish. You must have this done in Mexico. Note that not all Mexican states have this requirement.
- Apostille Legalization Procedure: Before the Mexican authorities will receive foreign-issued legal documents for processing, it’s necessary to get these Apostilled.
Validity Outside of Mexico
Your Marriage Certificate will be valid world-wide, but you should get your certificate “legalized” in Mexico to ensure it is legally accepted when you get back home. To do this, you can contact the registry office in Mexico who will tell you where this can be done locally.
Same Sex Marriages in Mexico
In 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled to change the legal definition of marriage to encompass same-sex couples and since then several Mexican States now perform same-sex marriages and others have been moving towards ratifying their laws and legal procedures to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Previously Married and Divorced
Each State in Mexico has slightly different laws in regard to when previously married couples may re-marry. Most places require that both the bride and groom are to be are divorced (starting from the date of final divorce decree) at least one full calendar year before re-marrying. Some states allow for earlier marriages if the woman proves, by medical decree, that she is not pregnant.
Marrying a Mexican National In Mexico
If you plan to marry a Mexican national in Mexico, you may need to apply for a permit to marry a Mexican national. Some States and districts have done away with the requirement for a foreign marriage permit, but it might still be necessary in the State where you are planning to get married – you should check with the local municipality where you plan to get married for the latest policy in force. In addition to all of the documentation listed above, depending on the State in which you plan to get married you may need to obtain permission from Mexico’s Interior Ministry – “Secretaria de Gobernacion – Oficina de Migracion” where, for a fee of around US$200, you’ll need to acquire a permit to marry a Mexican national. The document is known as “Permiso para contraer matrimonio con un nacional.” The office issuing this permit must be the same office that has jurisdiction over the area where the marriage is to take place.
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