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Certificate of Marriage

A certificate of marriage legally binds a couple in matrimony. In the United States, there is no greater document or validation in terms of marriage. While a marriage licenses gives two people permission to marry, the certificate is the document that legally changes the tax and identity status of the   binds the man and the woman legally and is a proof that the two are legally entitled to stay together as husband and wife.

A marriage license is issued by the state you plan to be married in. In most states, you must be a resident in order to file for a marriage license. In Nevada, for instance, any consenting, heterosexual adults can file for a marriage license -- hence the proliferation of wedding chapels and theme weddings in Sin City. The issuance of licenses is predicated on having a valid address and a valid means of verifying that address, namely, a copy of your lease or a valid in-state drivers license.

You can obtain a marriage license for a nominal feel either in person, or in some states, online. Online marriage licenses can downloaded in PDF format and filled out at home and returned in person or by mail. Obtaining a copy in person may require the investment of a few hours, but talking to a state or county official can address a number of your potential questions.

Though you can download online marriage licenses, few states have an actual online form that can be submitted via the Internet.  The major obstacle with online submissions is security and processing. Most people are not comfortable submitting personal information online, while most states and counties lack the resources to process these kinds of documents and applications.

A marriage certificate is synonymous with a certificate of marriage. The certificate can be issued by one of two agencies: the state or justice of the peace performing the ceremony, or the religious institution hosting the marriage.

A typical certificate contains the following information:

  •     Name of the wife
  •     Name of the husband
  •     Date and place of marriage
  •     Signatures of the two parties

In some cases, before a certificate of marriage can be issued, all nuptial records must be verified by a judge. These records can either be pre-nuptial records or the less familiar post-nuptial records. In either case, a nuptial agreement specifies who owns what and how any and all income and accumulated property will be divided should the couple decide to end the marriage at a future date.

The legal definition of marriage is a contract entered into by two consenting adults. Generally, for 44 states in the United States, these two adults must be one man and one woman. This contract must be entered into willingly, freely, and without malice. With the verification of the certificate of marriage the union becomes a legally binding contract, entitled to all the rights and protections therein.

A certificate of marriage entitles any married couple to file joint income tax returns. From a medical standpoint, married couples can determine the course of care should a spouse be gravely ill or seriously injured. Make sure you and your spouse have discussed this potentiality before it is too late.

Marriage registrations are verified for a number of reasons; the most common reason is to ensure that the marriage between the couple is legal. A marriage is not legal if it has not been properly registered in the state where the marriage has taken place. With the Internet you can verify marriage records in any state in the Union. The Department of Vital Statistics or Health & Human Services (depending on the state) can provide you with information concerning marriage records and other related documents.