You just found your original marriage license in an old file. The bottom part of the form certifying that your marriage took place is not signed by the person who performed the wedding ceremony. You checked and the state has no record of your marriage. There is no record at the courthouse of the license being issued. The certificate was never completed and sent back to the court. Twenty years has gone by. You have two grown children and an album full of pictures of your wedding day. Now you are wondering: Am I Legally Married?
The answer in Virginia is YES. You are legally married. So long as there was a license issued by the court clerk, a ceremony was held and you believe you are married, the law in Virginia says you have been “lawfully joined in marriage”. Virginia Code Section 20-31. If you are asked for state issued proof of marriage and you do not have any state issued proof- what do you do?
A lawyer can help. The courts in Virginia can declare your marriage valid effective on the original date it was celebrated. A lawyer can file a law suit to “affirm a marriage”. Your wedding album will be important proof of your marriage. That old marriage license that was never sent back to the court is also very important proof. Make sure you preserve these things so they can be displayed to a judge. Guests might be able to recall the date and testify. The court will enter an order that says your marriage is valid as of the original date it was celebrated. The state will issue a certificate of marriage with the original wedding date on it.
The license is important because you both were required to appear in person in the office of the court clerk and swear under oath that the information you provided was true and correct. The requirement that you appear personally to get your marriage license has always been the same. No one can stand in for a person nor can you submit a notarized statement on behalf of the person intending to be married.
Do not get married again. The start date of your new marriage can disqualify you for valuable social security benefits under your spouse’s account, it can disqualify you for military retirement benefits and it can impact your eligibility for some death benefits that require a marriage of a long duration. If your spouse dies, the amount you are entitled to as the survivor of a short marriage is negatively impacted. In the event of a divorce, the new marriage date can negatively impact your right to receive spousal support. It can also negatively impact your financial rights to property in a divorce.
Do not get a new license. Do not get re-married. If you are wondering if you are legally married, call us for help.