California Marriage Law

California Marriage Law: Basics Requirements

Marriage in California became available to gay couples after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Under California marriage law, the individuals must be of appropriate age (18 or older without parental consent), both must be consenting to the marriage, and they must have capacity. For more general information, see Marriage Requirements Basics: Consent, Age, and Capacity.

For consent to exist, both people must freely enter the marriage and not be forced in any way to marry the other person. They also must have no mistake as to the nature of the union. As long as both of these conditions are met, consent exists.

For a person to have capacity, they must be of "sound" mind and be capable of understanding and appreciating the nature of their union. This requirement does not prevent a person with any form of mental illness from marrying. As long as the person can understand what their obligations are to the person they are marrying, they are assumed to be of "sound" mind. Physical inability to consummate the marriage also does not prevent a person from having capacity.

Minors and Marriage in the Golden State

California does allow minors to marry provided that the minor is capable of consenting to the marriage upon receiving a court order granting permission for the underage person(s) to marry. Prior to obtaining this order, the court may require the minors to go through non-denominational premarital counseling. The court may set a reasonable fee for this program to be paid by the minors. Also, the minors will need to obtain written permission from at least one parent of the minor (or each minor) in order to marry. This will need to be filed with the court clerk along with the court order granting permission to marry. A certified copy of the order will need to be taken to the county clerk in order to obtain a marriage license.

Marriage License Requirements

Procedurally, the couple needs to obtain a marriage license from the county clerk prior to marriage. The marriage license in California is only valid for 90 days. So it is imperative that after applying for a marriage license, the couple plans to get married within that period of time. Once the marriage takes place and the marriage certificate is signed and completed, the license must be returned to the county clerk's office from where it was issued within ten days after the ceremony.

Special Rules

The State of California recognizes marriages that are validly made in other states or foreign jurisdictions, as long as the marriage would be recognized in that jurisdiction. For example, a marriage that was validly entered into and recognized in Massachusetts would still be considered valid and recognized in California if the couple moved to California.

Consider speaking with a California family law attorney if you need legal assistance or have additional questions about California marriage law.

California Marriage Law: Statutes

Related Resources

Getting Married? Get a Free Initial Case Review

Marriage is likely one of the most important events of your life. It not only involves your emotions, but it changes your legal status. If you need assistance concerning the marriage laws in California, then you should talk to a family law attorney about your specific case. You can get started with a free initial case review from a California attorney. Then you can decide how to proceed with your case.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.