Kansas marriage licenses are distributed throughout the state by the district courts. Each county has at least one such court. The persons who work in the court that are authorized to issue licenses will either be the district court judge or clerk of the district court. Usually, you'll be interacting with the clerk.
Although it's typical for both parties to the marriage to come into the courthouse when applying, only one is actually required. If you're applying on behalf of your prospective spouse, you must fill out the application on his/her behalf.
Although this form of applying by proxy is permitted, marriage by proxy is not.
There are no residency requirements. County and state residents are treated the same as non-state residents and foreigners. A marriage license received from one county can be used anywhere within the state.
You'll be expected to provide a high level of identifying information beyond just your name and date of birth. Be prepared to also provide your residence, race, highest education level completed, and the number of previous marriages and circumstances behind their ending. If you have a social security number, that'll be required as well.
Information about your parents will also be solicited, such as their names, dates of birth, and residences. If you don't know this information or aren't sure of all the details, then write in "unknown" or leave it blank.
The application itself is an affidavit taken under oath. If you falsely swear that the answers you provide are true, you would be guilty of a misdemeanor that's punishable by a fine not greater than $500.
The cost of a Kansas marriage license is precisely $85.00. Every district court in every county charges the same amount. Payment must be made in full at the time your application is submitted. Fees are non-refundable.
Every district court accepts cash, while other forms of payment vary by location. Consult the list of counties and their individual pages for a list of specific payment options accepted within their respective district court.
Where does the money go?
About two-thirds of the fee goes to the state treasurer, who deposits the money into the state treasury. That money is later disseminated to various state government funds. The remaining one third is kept by the district court to cover the expense of issuing the marriage license; it's just meant to cover non-judicial staff.
For those who are curious about how the state and district court spends your marriage license money, the next section discusses the exact breakdown of funds.
Total fee breakdown
The following table shows how the entire $85.50 fee is split between the state and district court.
|69%||$59.00||Remitted to the state treasurer|
|31%||$26.50||Retained by the district court|
This $26.50 surcharge hasn't been around for long. It was established by the Kansas Supreme Court which set the effective date to start on July 1, 2015, and is actually meant to expire on June 30, 2017. Watch this space to see if the fee is extended, which is likely to happen.
Update: June 30, 2017 has come and gone, and the fee has not changed.
Remitted to the state treasurer
The following breakdown solely represents the $59 portion of the overall fee sent to the treasurer to fund various state programs.
|38.98%||$23.00||Protection from abused fund|
|15.19%||$8.96||Family and children trust account|
|16.95%||$10.00||Crime victims assistance fund|
|15.25%||$9.00||Judicial branch nonjudicial salary adjustment fund|
|13.63%||$8.04||State general fund|
It's a universally accepted and expected notion that identification of some type is going to be solicited when applying for a marriage license. This typically comes in the form of ID, such as a driver's license, state-issued ID, or passport. The goal is to make certain applicants are eligible to be issued a marriage license.
The state doesn't lay down fine-tuned identification requirements that judges and clerks are allowed to accept. What documentation is required to verify an applicant's identity and age is left to each licensing authority to decide. Sure, courts and offices are likely to have a set of internal standards that all staff follow, but this uniformity doesn't extend beyond the courthouse walls or county borders.
Every county and every court can do things differently; can accept certain forms of ID that others may not. Some will require birth certificates to verify age, while others will make do with a baptismal record. Some will require a divorce decree be shown for divorcees, while others will take your word for it.
The best thing you can do to make sure you're in and out without a problem is to go above and beyond when it comes to ID, court records (e.g., divorce records), and certificates (e.g., birth, death). If in doubt, contact the courthouse to determine what they will and won't accept. We've got all the county offices listed, so you don't have to hunt these contacts down yourself.
Bottom line, as long as you have one government issued ID that shows your date of birth, you'll be fine. If you have photo ID that doesn't have your date of birth, bring along your original birth certificate or a certified copy. If you don't have your birth certificate, can't track it down, or don't want to spend the money to order a new certified copy, then ask yourself one question:
Do I look at least 25 years old?
If the answer is yes, then you'll be able to get by with just a photo ID, even if it doesn't show your date of birth.
The minimum age to marry in Kansas without having to involve parents or judges is 18 years old; if you are at or above this age, you can marry without further obstruction as long as sufficient identification is provided to verify your date of birth.
Once an application has been written up and signed, you'll be given an oath that everything you've stated is true. If you're claiming to be of legal age to marry without parental consent and that turns out to be false, you'll be guilty of a misdemeanor and potentially fined up to $500.
Consent to marry
Applicants below the age of 18 will need to obtain consent to marry. The consent can either come from both parents or guardians, or just one parent. The conditions for getting a marriage license varies slightly depending on how many parents are participating.
Let's cover all possible scenarios, but for the sake of brevity any upcoming reference to parent and parental should be taken to mean parent or guardian (singular and plural).
16 and 17 year olds
This is the only age bracket where parental consent actually comes into play. Consent must be granted in person before the judge or clerk. If the consenting parent or parents can't come in for any reason, a written certificate (basically an affidavit) that grants consent is an acceptable substitute.
It's not necessary for the absent parent to explain why he or she is unable to go in person with the applicant when drafting the written consent statement.
Parents or parent
If both parents to the minor are willing to grant consent, then that is good enough for the judge or clerk to issue a license.
If only one parent is available to offer consent, then the judge (not the clerk) must step in and decide if the minor should marry. However, if the one consenting parent just so happens to be the sole living parent, a judge's permission is not required.
If both the minor's parents are deceased, and there's no guardian, then the judge may be willing to issue a marriage license. Judges won't take the minor's word for it that his or her parents are dead. Some form of investigation will need to be performed to verify such claims.
15 years old
If the applicant is 15 years old, parental consent is irrelevant; it will be up to the judge to declare whether the minor is fit to marry. If the judge doesn't believe it's in the best interest of the minor to marry, the application will be rejected.
Keep in mind, the judge decides such matters, not the clerk. If the making of an application begins with a court clerk, he or she will have to defer a portion or all of the application process to the judge once it's discovered an applicant is underage. If the judge isn't available, then the applicant will have to come back later.
14 years old and below
Applicants who are 14 years old and younger cannot marry—full stop; parental consent or emancipation status doesn't matter.
Once your marriage license application is accepted, you won't receive your marriage license until three days later. This means that every applicant will need to make a minimum of two trips to the district court: one to apply, the other to pickup. You have to pay the license fee on the day you apply, not the day you pickup.
So, if you apply on Monday, you must return on Thursday to pick up your license. Since all district courts are closed on weekends, if you apply on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, you'll have to come back on the following Monday to pick up your license.
Watch out for holiday closures as well; if you don't plan accordingly you risk disrupting your marriage timeline and ceremony date.
Once you have your license in hand there's no additional wait to marry.
If you find the three-day wait time to be unacceptable, you can appeal to the district judge to waive it. There will have to be an emergency or extraordinary circumstance for the judge to grant a waiver.
Issued marriage licenses are good for six months. Once it expires, it's considered void. Solemnization using an expired marriage license is illegal and will result in a voided marriage and potential fine.
Marriage licenses that are close to expiring, or have expired, will not be refunded. Extensions will not be provided to applicants. Reapplication and repayment are necessary to renew a lapsed license.
Solemnization is a fancy word for a marriage ceremony. When an official presides over your marriage, the act itself is called solemnization. This official is often referred to as the officiant.
Not everyone can solemnize; Kansas laws spells out which officials have the legal authority to perform marriages. They are as follows:
Any person who's an appointed licentiate, ordained clergyman, or authorized, practicing member of a religious organization can legally solemnize. This is an elaborate way of saying any person that any religious organization, institution, or society authorizes to perform marriages is authorized in the eyes of the state.
Kansas doesn't get into the business of policing which religious organizations can perform marriages and who they deem appropriate to execute solemnization duties. As far as the state is concerned, that's a quagmire that's best left untouched.
Judge or justice
Virtually any judge or justice of a court of record may solemnize; this includes both active and retired judges.
Even though licenses are distributed at the county level by district court judges, municipal judges of a city can get in on the solemnization action; they too have the authority to solemnize like their district court brethren.
Municipal judges must be established in Kansas. Non-municipal judges can be residents or non-residents of the state.
Kansas is one of the few states that allow couples to marry themselves; to essentially serve as their own officiant. They'll declare their devotion to one another and take each other's hand in marriage.
It's up to the couple how the solemnization procedure takes place, whether religious themed or not. The state doesn't get involved here the same way it doesn't get involved with how a religious institution prefers to carry out their ceremonies and rites. In reality, the state doesn't care how couples execute their self-solemnization.
The power of self-solemnization comes with great responsibility; chiefly making sure the marriage is properly recorded with the state and that two witnesses to the ceremony are logged on the marriage record.
Kansas law requires two adult witnesses attend your marriage ceremony. Whether the solemnization is handled by an officiant, or the couple self-solemnizes, two witnesses must be present. The officiant cannot serve as a witness.
The witnesses must be competent, meaning they understand what they're witnessing and appreciates the significance of what's happening.
The name of each witness must be written on the certificate of marriage.
The value of witnesses can come into play if the validity of your marriage is ever called into question. For instance, if your marriage ceremony isn't properly recorded with the state, your documented witnesses can confirm its existence via affidavits.
Immediately after the marriage ceremony is done, the certificate of marriage attached to the license must be signed and dated by the officiant. The duplicate copy of the license should be handed to the couple. The original license and certificate of marriage must be sent back to the district court that issued it within 10 days following the marriage ceremony.
If you're choosing to have a self-solemnized ceremony, it'll be your responsibility, as a couple, to administer these steps.
Once the license is back at the district court, its information will be recorded for posterity within the court's marriage records. By the third day of the following month, the judge or clerk is required to send the original license and certificate of marriage to the Secretary of Health and Environment, where it will remain.
As the previous recording section discussed, following the recording of your marriage license and certificate of marriage, the documents are sent to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for permanent storage. If the need arises to acquire a certified copy of these vital records, it must be gotten direct from the state-level Vital Records office.
Kansas is one of the few states that continue to recognize common-law marriages. The catch is that parties to a common law marriage must be 18 years old or above.
Kansas prohibits marriage between certain types of family members; relationships that it considers to be incestuous. The ban applies to ancestors and descendants.
This means parents cannot marry their children, grandparents cannot marry their grandchildren, brothers cannot marry sisters (by half blood or whole blood), and aunts and uncles cannot marry nieces and nephews.
Relationships based on adoption are considered the same as blood relations, therefore marriage between stepparents and stepchildren are banned the same as blood relations.
Marriage between first cousins is also banned, although marriage between second cousins and beyond is fine.
If such a prohibited marriage was to take place in Kansas, and were discovered, it would result in the marriage being voided.
Although this page is focused on getting married in Kansas, there does seem to be minor confusion about the status of a marriage that takes place out-of-state and out of the country. Let's settle some confusion, anxiety, and myths.
If you have been married outside of Kansas, be it another U.S. state, territory, or foreign country, your marriage will be recognized and considered just as valid as a Kansas-based marriage as long as the standards that allowed the marriage to take place there would have also allowed you to get married here.
That's a mouthful, so let's go through two examples:
Example 1: Prohibited marriage
Let's say a marriage took place in a state or country where first cousins could legally marry. Such a marriage would not be recognized in Kansas, since state law prohibits marriage between first cousins.
Example 2: Underage marriage
Let's say there's a minor, that's 14 years old, who legally married in a state that allowed a marriage at that age to take place. Even if the marriage was approved by parents or guardians and a court of law, such a marriage would not be recognized here because age 15 is the lowest age of marriage legally permitted by this state.
Non-recognition of a marriage is largely based on discovery and enforcement. For the cousin example, even if such a prohibited marriage were to take place, how would Kansas verify its illegitimacy (in the state's eyes)? Unless the invalidity is brought to the attention of the district court, or equivalent authority, the likelihood of such a marriage being considered invalid is not high.
This doesn't mean to imply that there's no (or low) risk for certain applicants to marry outside of Kansas just to bypass the state's marriage laws; it's just a recognition that there's a gulf between what state law proclaims is not permissible and what mechanisms the state's legal system has in place to actually do anything about it.
Registration not required
There's a myth that has gone around suggesting a marriage from another state, and especially another country, has to somehow be registered with this state; where you have to take your marriage record to some registering authority and say, "here's my marriage record; please register it with the state so that my marriage will be recognized as legitimate." This is false.
While it's true that the Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment is responsible for registering marriages, he or she only registers marriages that actually take place within Kansas.
If you're a Kansas resident that married in a neighboring state, your marriage record does not need to be registered in Kansas, with any Kansas-based governing body, registrar, or vital statistics institution. Out-of-state marriages cannot be registered in this state, even if you wanted to. This same impossibility applies to marriages solemnized in a foreign country.
One point of confusion that may very well trip up Kansas residents who marry outside of the country is when their foreign marriage record/certificate is not written in English and there's an attempt by either spouse to use it in some official capacity.
For example, if a marriage took place in a foreign land, and the provided marriage record is not in English and has no translated duplicate attached, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to use the document as proof of marriage.
Problems can also arise if such a document was used as an instrument to complete a marriage-related name change. Some federal and state agencies may require non-English documents be translated and have that translation certified. Oftentimes the document translator and the person who certifies the translation cannot be the same person.
These are legitimate real world problems which have been known to frustrate and obstruct. If you're a Kansan that plans to marry in a foreign country, do yourself a favor and inquire about having your marriage records certified and translated. This can save you potential headaches if you ever have to provide proof of marriage that's accepted prima facie.
Now that you're aware of what it takes to get a Kansas marriage license, your next step is to visit a district court. It doesn't matter which court you apply in as marriage licenses are good statewide and share the same price.