To get married in Montana, you must apply for a marriage license in a clerk of the district court office.
You must be sober
You won't be issued a license if you're drunk or under the influence of narcotic drugs. The application actually has a dedicated section where the clerk must mark "yes" or "no" if you're sober.
Applying by proxy
If you can't attend the making of the application, you can have your prospective spouse or legal representative appear on your behalf. This option is only available to Montana residents or active duty members of the Armed Forces.
This method of applying by proxy, or absentee, often works hand in hand with getting married by proxy.
Once your application is approved, you will be issued a marriage license and marriage certificate form, the latter of which must be filled out by whoever solemnizes your marriage. Both documents, which appear on a single sheet of paper, must be returned to the office for recording soon after you're married.
A marriage license costs $53. Filing a "declaration of marriage" also costs $53.
Where you can apply and marry depends on your state residency status.
One or both are residents
If either of you are residents of Montana, you're free to obtain a marriage license from any clerk of the district court throughout the state. Afterward, you can marry anywhere in the state.
Both are nonresidents
If neither of you are residents of Montana, you must obtain your marriage license from the clerk of the district court in the county where the marriage ceremony will take place.
The Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) designs the marriage application, license, and consent to marriage forms that all clerk of the district courts must abide by. This ensures statewide uniformity.
The marriage license application contains a mixture of identity and genealogical questions aimed at verifying your eligibility to marry. Be prepared to disclose the following:
You must specify your full name, including birth surname; address, with county; birthplace, including city, state, and county, or country; age and date of birth; sex; race; highest education level completed; each parent's full name, birth surname, address, and birthplace; if you're related to one another and, if so, how so; and your future address and phone number.
You must document which marriage this will be (e.g., first, second, third). If you've been married before, detail how it ended (e.g., divorce, death, annulment), your prior spouse's name, and when and where the dissolution (specifically the courthouse) or death took place.
Social security number
Your social security number is gathered and confidentially disseminated to enforce Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which is administered by the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
You'll need to provide documentary evidence that confirms your age, such as an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, passport, driver's license, state-issued identification card, or tribal identification card.
Other forms are identification is acceptable as long as the clerk is satisfied.
Translate birth certificate
If your birth certificate is not written in English, it must be translated to English and notarized. Bring both the original and translation.
If you meet all legal requirements for marriage, you will be issued a marriage license immediately. You can get married as soon as you receive your license.
Your marriage license will expire 180 days after it's been issued.
Sixteen is the minimum age to marry in Montana. If you're 16 or 17 years old, your guardian, parents, or custodial parent must grant consent for you to marry, as well as a district court judge's permission. If you have no parent capable of granting consent, authorization alone from a district judge is sufficient.
The clerk of the district court will provide your parent(s) or guardian with a consent form that must be signed at the same time you submit your application.
If you're an underage applicant, the district court mandates both you and your prospective spouse attend two counseling sessions that take place at least 10 days apart prior to being issued a license. The clerk's office can provide you counseling forms and assign a counselor.
Once the consent and counseling requirements have been fulfilled, and the district judge determines you're capable of handling the responsibilities of marriage and it's in your best interest to marry, he or she will sign a judicial consent order that instructs the clerk of the district court to issue you a license.
Bear in mind, pregnancy or parenthood does not automatically mean you're ready for marriage, in the court's eyes.
Rubella blood test
You can choose to either waive the rubella immunity blood test—which only applies to female applicants—or still participate by submitting a medical certificate.
Purpose of testing
If a pregnant woman has the contagious disease rubella, also known as German measles, it can wreck havoc on their unborn child, including serious birth defects, premature delivery, and even death.
Rubella testing can determine if you're immune from the disease by detecting certain antibodies in your bloodstream.
You can get vaccinated with the MMR vaccine prior to becoming pregnant, which has a 97% effective rate in preventing rubella.
With the passage of Senate Bill 132, effective October 1, 2007, you can decline getting a blood test that detects if you're immune from the virus that causes rubella.
On the "Montana Premarital Testing for Rubella Immunity" form, that accompanies your application, check the waiver request box on the "Informed Consent" section, then you and your spouse must sign the form.
If you choose not to waive the blood test, you must submit a "medical certificate" signed by a licensed physician that either confirms you're exempt from testing on medical grounds or have completed a blood test and reviewed the results with your prospective spouse.
Exemptions typically apply to women who are over the age of 50 or are unable to bear children.
If you were previously married, you must show the clerk of the district court a certified copy of the divorce decree or death certificate.
You cannot marry your ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or first cousin, whether the relationship is by the whole or half blood.
You cannot marry someone who has lacks the mental or physical capacity to consent to marriage, if the incapacitation is due to mental illness, ill-health, or the influence of alcohol or drugs. If such a marriage were established, it would be subject to voiding by the district court.
Living husband or wife
Unless you intend to commit bigamy, you cannot enter into a new marriage without first dissolving the prior. However, if you continue to cohabitate after the earlier marriage is dissolved, your bigamous marriage will be recognized as valid, but only from the date of dissolution onward.
Solemnization is the act of performing, presiding over, or conducting your marriage ceremony. Your marriage license is what gives an authorized officiant legal authority to solemnize your marriage, so don't forget to bring this document to your ceremony.
Your marriage can be performed by any judge of a court of record, city judge, tribal judge, justice of the peace, mayor, or authorized official associated with any religious denomination or Indiana nation, tribe, or native group.
Two witnesses must sign your marriage certificate at the conclusion of your ceremony.
If you can't attend the ceremony, you can assign a proxy to stand in for you. You must provide the officiant a written statement authorizing a named individual to act as your substitute.
If the person solemnizing believes your statement is authentic, the proxy marriage may commence. If the officiant is not satisfied with your note, you can request the district court order the marriage be solemnized by proxy.
Completing the certificate
Once your ceremony is over, the marriage certificate portion of the license must be completed. The officiant must notate the time and place the ceremony was performed and everyone involved must affix their signature, including the officiant, you, your spouse, and both witnesses.
Delivering the certificate
Whoever solemnizes your marriage must return the completed license and certificate to the clerk of the district court that issued it no later than 30 days after the ceremony was performed so that it may be recorded.
Failure to return would result in a fine of $10–50, directed at the officiant.
If you have the misfortune of having your marriage solemnized by a huckster who had no authority to do so, it wouldn't invalidate your marriage if you or your spouse believed that person to be legitimate.
Recording the marriage
Once your completed marriage certificate is received by the clerk of the district court, it will be signed, dated, and filed in office records. At this point, your marriage is registered, recorded, and legally recognized by the state.
Original and certified copies
Your original marriage license and certificate will automatically be returned to you within a month of its recording.
Some offices may mail you one or two certified copies of your license and certificate for free, prior to the original's return, while others require a search and copy fee be paid. It varies from office to office, so inquire when you apply.
Name change after marriage
The original or certified copy of your marriage license and certificate is necessary if you plan to change your name after marriage with the Social Security Administration, Motor Vehicle Division, passport agency, or other government and non-government institutions.
Declaration of marriage
You can get married in Montana without solemnization by submitting a written "declaration of marriage" statement to the clerk of the district court.
Your declaration must include your name, age, residence, mother's birth name and address, father's name and address, a statement declaring that you are married, the date and time your marriage was established, and the signature of two witnesses.
If your witnesses do not plan to accompany you to the filing of your declaration, their signatures must be notarized.
Once you pay the declaration fee, the clerk will file your declaration and medical certificate or waiver. Afterward, your marriage will be recorded just like any other solemnized marriage.
Montana still continues to recognize common-law marriages established in this state, among others.
In order to establish a common-law marriage in Montana, you must be an adult (age 18 or older), capable of getting married for real, not already married, and hold yourself out as married to friends, family, and the community.
It's crucial that you and your spouse agree on the date and time your common-law marriage was established. Failure to do so can cause legal problems when it comes to dissolving the marriage or resolving a disagreement that it was ever established.
You must get a divorce to end a common-law marriage, as you would any other marriage.
If you or your spouse claim to be common-law married, but the other refutes that assertion, who's right? How would the marriage be dissolved if neither party can agree on when it was established or even if it was established?
This is why it's important to agree on and document as fact when your common-law marriage began. You don't want to accidentally stumble into a common-law marriage and pay the price if formal divorce proceedings are initiated.
Convert to real marriage
You can convert your common-law marriage into a real one by submitting a written declaration of marriage to the clerk of the district court. This allows you to backdate when your marriage was established.
Recognition outside Montana
Most states and federal institutions do not recognize common-law marriages as valid. If you want your marriage universally recognized you must either get married for real or convert your common-law marriage into a real marriage.