If you're getting married in Florida, you must first apply for a Florida marriage license in any circuit court—specifically the clerk of the circuit court's office.
There are 20 judicial circuits spread across Florida's 67 counties. Each county has one or more circuit courts or branch offices to serve the citizenry.
The person responsible for processing your marriage license application is the clerk of the circuit court (a.k.a. clerk of the court) or an appointed deputy clerk.
Note: Although Florida statutes permit county court judges to issue licenses, in 99.9% of cases you'll be dealing with the clerk of the circuit court.
Both you and your intended spouse must apply together, in person. Do not send a proxy applicant or power of attorney to apply on your behalf.
A Florida marriage license costs $93.50.
FYI, $25 out of every license purchased is deposited into the Domestic Violence Trust Fund and another $25 is allocated to the state's General Revenue Fund.
A certified copy of your marriage certificate costs $5–7 per copy. If you just need a search and verification performed, the fee is $2 and is nonrefundable.
Civil ceremony fee
A civil ceremony that's conducted within the circuit court costs $30.
If you're unable to pay the license fee all at once, you can submit an affidavit stating so. You'll be allowed to submit up to three installment payments over a 90-day period. Your license will be released after the last payment.
Premarital course savings
The marriage license fee will be lowered to $61 if you and your intended spouse present an unexpired premarital preparation course certificate of completion.
There are no residency requirements; you may apply at any clerk of the circuit court's office and subsequently marry anywhere in the state.
The marriage license application will ask you to disclose the following:
- Name (first, middle, last)
- Maiden name, if different
- Date of birth
- Place of birth (state or foreign country)
- Residence (city, county, state or foreign country)
- Race (e.g., Black, White, other)
- Social security number
- Number of "this" marriage (e.g., first, second, third)
- How your last marriage ended (e.g., divorce, death, annulment)?
- Exact date your last marriage ended
- Did you complete a premarital preparation course? Separately or together?
Unlike the previous questions, the following will be asked once for both of you:
- Are you parents of a child born in Florida?
- Mailing address
- Email address
Social security number
Your social security number is solicited solely to comply with child enforcement provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
If you're a non-U.S. citizen without a social security number, provide your USCIS-issued alien registration number instead. If you have neither, provide some other identification number.
Note: Foreigners without a social security number, alien registration number, or equivalent will not likely be denied a license on that basis alone.
Oath, signature, and handbook
When you sign the application, which must be done in the presence of the clerk of the circuit court, you'll be taking an oath that your application is true and that you've read or accessed the Family Law Handbook.
Family Law Handbook
The clerk of the circuit court will give you a copy of the annually updated Family Law Handbook, published by the Florida Bar, which covers the following topics:
- Rights and responsibilities to each other and children during and after marriage
- Community resources and courthouse self-help clinics
- Property rights and equitable distribution
- Domestic violence and child abuse
- Shared parental responsibilities
- Prenuptial agreements
- Child support
- Dissolving a marriage
- Divorce or separation and how it affects children
Note: Availability of handbook copies is not guaranteed; instead, you may be shown a videotaped representation or directed to a website.
Premarital preparation course
If you and you future spouse complete a four-hour premarital preparation course—together or separately—from a qualified instructor, your certificate of completion—good for one year—will reward you with the following benefits:
If your course provider charges a fee, it's on you to pay it. Some providers offer instruction for free while others may offer a deduction based on financial need.
Course providers must register with the clerk of the circuit court by filing an affidavit of their qualifications. Feel free to ask the clerk for a list of local providers.
This underage marriage section speaks to those under 18 years of age, as legal adults do not require parental consent or a judge's permission to marry.
With parental consent
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you can marry with the written consent of both of your parents or a legal guardian.
If you have only one custodial parent, submit proof such as a divorce decree, court order, or death certificate. If your parents are deceased, consent isn't required.
Consent must be executed before someone authorized to take acknowledgements and administer oaths, such as a clerk of the circuit court or a notary public.
If you're 16 or 17 years old and have been married before, you don't need parental consent to marry again. Bring proof of the prior marriage.
If you're below the age of 18 and swear before a county court judge that you're a parent, the judge may exercise their discretion to issue you a license to marry.
If you're below the age of 18 and present a written statement from a licensed physician that you or your intended spouse is pregnant, a county court judge may be willing to issue you a license to marry.
You do not have to obtain a blood test to get a marriage license.
Although Florida law doesn't overtly require identification be presented, every clerk of the circuit court asks for it lest they be held liable for unlawful licensure.
Submit photo ID that contains your date of birth and signature, such as a:
- Driver's license
- Military identification card
- Florida-issued identification card
- Permanent resident card (a.k.a. Green Card)
ID for minors
If you were previously married, submit proof of the last marriage ending with a certified copy of the divorce decree, annulment order, or death certificate.
Note: Although state law doesn't stipulate such proof be exhibited, there's a high likelihood it will be asked—especially if it took place within the last 30 days–so exercise caution and have it readily available.
Issuance of license
Your issued marriage license isn't yours to keep; it should be given to the officiant who must complete the "certificate of marriage" portion and return it to the issuing clerk of the circuit court for recording.
Although your marriage license will be issued moments after you apply, it will not become "effective" for use until three days later, at midnight. The effective date will be shown on the license in bold text.
Three-day delay waiver
The three-day delay will be waived under any of the following circumstances:
- Neither are Florida residents.
- Assert that a delay would impose a hardship.
- County court judge waives the delay for good cause.
- Show certificates of completion for a premarital preparation course
Your marriage license will expire 60 days after issuance. The precise date of expiration will be written on the face of the license.
The person who performs your marriage is called the officiant. Florida law permits the following officials—assuming they're state residents—to solemnize marriages:
- Church elder
- Ordained minister of the gospel
- Clergyperson belonging to any religious denomination
- Notary public
- Judicial officer (e.g., judge, magistrate) (including retirees)
- Quakers (a.k.a. Society of Friends), according to their customs
Two "competent" witnesses are required to attend your marriage ceremony. They must also sign your marriage license at the end of the ceremony.
A competent witness is someone who understands the significance of what they're witnessing and can confirm the marriage's existence via affidavit if the need arises.
Before your marriage ceremony can begin you must surrender your marriage license for inspection to whoever will solemnize your marriage.
Completion and return
After the ceremony has concluded, the officiant must complete the "certificate of marriage" portion of the license by documenting when and where the marriage took place as well as their name, title, signature, and address.
The officiant must return the completed marriage license to whoever issued it no later than 10 days following the ceremony.
Your marriage will be acknowledged by the state after your completed license has been returned to the issuing clerk of the circuit court for proper recording.
Recording simply entails archiving your license after cataloguing the marriage ceremony date and names of everyone who participated in the event.
A non-recorded marriage is a rare phenomenon, but it can happen if your officiant fails to return the license or the license becomes lost or destroyed in transit.
To execute a delayed recording of your marriage, two witnesses who attended your ceremony must prepare an affidavit confirming the ceremony before an official authorized to administer oaths. These two witnesses do not have to be the same witnesses who signed your license.
Submit the affidavit to the clerk of the circuit court who issued the marriage license so that your marriage can be recorded after the fact.
You can purchase a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the clerk of the circuit court that recorded it for $7 per copy.
Note: A certified copy of your marriage certificate is the same thing as a certified copy of your marriage license—the phrases are interchangeable.
If you plan to change your name after marriage in Florida, you have several options available. You can take your spouse's surname or hyphenate surnames. You can also replace your middle name with your maiden name.
A certified copy of your marriage certificate is the mechanism that allows the Social Security Administration, DMV, and other institutions to update your name.
Note: Even though the marriage application doesn't provide a space to specify a new name, it will not prevent you from completing a marriage-based name change.
Getting married by proxy is not allowed in Florida. Both parties to the marriage must be in attendance during the marriage ceremony.
Florida will only recognize common-law marriages that took place on or before January 1, 1968.
Marrying a relative
If you were to marry any of the following members of your family, the marriage would be considered incestuous and subject to voiding:
Note: First cousin marriages are permitted.
Punishment for incest
Incest is a felony of the third degree that carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a possible fine of up to $5,000.
If you have a living husband or wife and marry another person, you'd be guilty of bigamy. If you knowingly marry a bigamist, you too would be guilty of bigamy.
Punishment for bigamy
Bigamy is a third degree felony. Upon conviction you'll face up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.
Exceptions to bigamy
You may be able to escape a bigamy charge if any of the following is true:
- You thought you could lawfully marry.
- The prior spouse was believed to be deceased.
- The prior marriage was incorrectly assumed to be dissolved.
- The prior spouse had disappeared for three straight years before remarriage.
Next stop, circuit court
Now that you understand what to expect when applying for a marriage license, the next step is choosing a local Florida circuit court to apply in. Good luck.