What is marriage?
Most states define marriage as a "civil contract," including current Nebraska law, but in 1980 the courts ruled that it's not actually a "contract" but a "social status."
Regardless of what you call it, marriage in Nebraska may only be legitimately established with the consent of both parties, who must be competent, and not brought about through fraud or coercion.
Where to get a license?
You can obtain a marriage license from any of the state's numerous county clerk offices. The official responsible for processing applications is the county clerk, or their authorized deputy.
Your residency is a nonfactor. Whether you're a Nebraska native, resident, or just visiting, you're free to apply for a marriage license in any county clerk's office. You can subsequently get married anywhere in the state.
The cost of a marriage license in Nebraska will either by $15 or $25. Out of the state's 93 counties, seven counties charge the lower fee while the remainder charges the higher fee. The following table represents the split.
|8%||$15||Charged by seven counties|
|92%||$25||Charged by eighty-six counties|
The marriage license application is designed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and disseminated to county clerks.
You must flesh out your identity by providing your full legal name, age, date of birth, birthplace, and current residence.
If you've been previously married, you must specify the date it ended and if it ended by dissolution, annulment, or death.
Note there is a six-month delay between a finalized divorce and how soon you can remarry.
Race and ethnicity
You'll be asked if you are of Hispanic origin, and to specify your race or races, including White or Caucasian, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. There is no "Other" choice available.
Social security number
Your social security number is solicited to fulfill child support enforcement mechanisms as required by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
The county clerk will forward your application and social security number to the child support enforcement division within the Department of Health and Human Services.
If you don't have a social security number, you must sign an affidavit form—provided by the county clerk—attesting to that assertion.
Your parent's birthplaces and names, including mother's maiden name, is collected for genealogical purposes.
Public and confidential data
The only parts of the application that will be reflected on your issued license are the biographical details pertaining to you and your parents.
Your race and ethnicity, social security number, and marital history will not appear on certified copies of your marriage license/certificate/record.
Age of majority
In Nebraska, anyone below the age of 19 is considered a minor. This may come as a surprise to non-Nebraskans who may assume the "age of majority" is 18 throughout the country.
Age 19 and over
If you're 19 years old or older, you can get married without obtaining the consent of your parent or guardian.
Age 17 and 18
If you're 17 or 18 years old, you haven't yet reached adulthood in Nebraska. Therefore, you'll need to obtain consent to marry from at least one parent or guardian.
Age 16 and under
If you're 16 years old or younger, you're too young to legally marry.
Marriage equals adulthood
One interesting tidbit is if you're underage, not currently committed to a state institution, and either married or previously married, then you're no longer considered a minor in the state's eyes. Your minority status is shed as you automatically elevate to legal adulthood.
The consent to marry requirement only applies to 17 and 18 year olds; anyone above that age doesn't need it; anyone below that age can't get married anyway, so it's irrelevant.
Who grants consent?
You must obtain consent to marry from your guardian, conservator, or other person that's not your parent, who has legal custody of you; or either parent, if they're living together; or your custodial parent, if they're living apart; or your sole living parent, if the other is deceased.
Consent must be granted in writing, under oath, in the form of a written and signed affidavit.
If your parent or guardian plans to accompany you to the making of the application, the county clerk can furnish a fill-in-the-blank consent form and administer the oath.
If your parent or guardian is unable to grant their consent in person, before the county clerk, a blank consent form can be picked up in advance from the county clerk's office to be filled out and notarized. Such a document would serve as acceptable proof of consent.
Whether consent is to be given in person or notarized, the person authorizing consent shouldn't sign the consent form until they're in the presence of the county clerk or notary public.
Identification is solicited to corroborate the identity and age details specified on your application.
ID required by everyone
You must supply one satisfactory form of photo identification to the county clerk. Although state law doesn't define what is and is not satisfactory, universally accepted forms of ID include a driver's license, state-issued identification card, military identification card, green card, or passport.
ID required by minors
If you're a minor who's eligible to marry, you must bring a certified copy of your birth certificate.
ID required by parents or guardians
If a parent or guardian is planning to grant in person consent before the county clerk, they too must bring some form of government-issued identification. Guardians and custodial parents should also be prepared to offer proof of guardianship or custody.
Non-English ID must be translated
Any identification that you provide that's not written in English, such as a foreign passport or birth certificate, must have a certified English translation attached.
Issued license and certificate
Your issued license will come as a two-part document, with your "marriage license" and "certificate of marriage" complementing each other, top and bottom. The certificate is meant to be filled out by whoever solemnizes your marriage.
As with the application, the license and certificate is designed by the Department of Health and Human Services, on behalf of county clerks, to ensure statewide uniformity.
License is a public record
Before your license is issued, it will be recorded in a dedicated marriage book kept in the office. This record will forever remain open to the public for examination.
You'll be issued a marriage license immediately after submitting your application—assuming it's approved by the county clerk. You can then get married immediately.
Once your marriage license has been issued, you'll be given one year to use it before it expires. This is quite a generous length of time considering many other states cap their expiration periods at a month or less.
Rubella blood tests
Women are no longer required to undergo a blood test to detect Rubella immunity, also known as German measles. Men are not required to undertake a blood test either.
Unsurprisingly, you cannot get married if you have a living husband or wife. Your prior marriage must be dissolved or annulled before you can enter into a subsequent marriage. Doing otherwise would amount to bigamy, which would be a void marriage.
Keep in mind, there is an unanticipated delay that recent divorcees must endure.
You cannot marry an ascendant, descendant, or sibling, among others, including your parent or grandparent, child or grandchild, sister or brother of the half or whole blood, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or first cousin of the whole blood.
Children and relatives born in or out of wedlock are treated equally.
You cannot marry someone deemed mentally incompetent or insane at the time of marriage.
The state does distinguish between mental incompetence and mental weakness. Marriage established with a person exhibiting "incompetence" is voidable, whereas "weakness" is not.
You cannot marry until six months have passed since your divorce has finalized. The law specifically cites divorces and not annulments. Doing otherwise would not constitute bigamy, but it is likewise prohibited.
If you were to somehow get married within the six-month blockade, the subsequent marriage would become valid and no longer subject to voiding as long as you and your new spouse cohabitate after this time period have lapsed.
Since you are required to supply the date your last marriage ended in divorce on the application, such a pitfall should be caught by the county clerk to prevent premature issuance of a license.
If you're last marriage left you a widower, there is no minimum time restraint that prevents you from remarrying, six months or otherwise. You will have to supply the date your spouse died on the application.
The person who performs, presides over, or solemnizes your marriage ceremony is called the officiant or solemnizing official. State law designates a small set of figures who are allowed to solemnize.
Your marriage can be performed by any active or retired judge or active or retired clerk magistrate.
Note that a clerk magistrate is not the same as a magistrate; it's a government-appointed administrative position that's below that of a judge, but above that of a staffer.
Preachers of the gospel
Your marriage can be also be performed by any preacher of the gospel who's given solemnization authority by the church that he or she belongs to.
While this may appear to be a highly exclusionary group of one, legal caveats exists that broadens the list without altering the written law.
Religious societies, such as Quakers, Mennonites, and members of the Baha'i faith, are too permitted to solemnize marriages between members based on the rituals and customs of the society.
Whoever performs the marriage—whether it's a clerk, a designee, the congregation, the couple themselves, or combination thereof—is responsible for completing and returning the license and certificate, as any other officiant would.
Unnamed yet still authorized
Although state law saw fit to mention preachers of the gospel as the only authorized type of religious officiant, the 1932 case of Collins v. Hoag & Rollins suggested that they're not the only persons or officials who have such authority.
This vagueness is what permits non-preachers, such as rabbis, imams, and designees of virtually any religious organization to perform marriages without running afoul of state law.
Before you marriage ceremony can begin, your unexpired marriage license must be presented to the officiant. A marriage performed without a license is absolutely void.
Form or procedure
Your marriage isn't required to following any particular form or procedure. The state merely requires that your marriage is performed by an authorized person, before two witnesses, where you solemnly declare to take each other's hand in marriage.
Two witnesses are required to attend your ceremony, excluding the officiant.
Making the return
Once you and your spouse have taken each other's hand in marriage, the officiant must "make the return," which constitutes filling out the bottom certificate of marriage portion of the license.
The officiant must document when and where the marriage was celebrated; his or her name; you and your spouse's names, ages, and residences; and the names and residences of two witnesses who were present.
Returning the license
The completed license and certificate must be returned to the county clerk that issued them no later than 15 days after the ceremony transpired so that it can be officially recorded.
Fraudsters and funky returns
Any person who solemnizes a marriage without the legal authority to do so, proceeds with the ceremony when an unresolved legal impediment is known, returns a false certificate of marriage to the issuing county clerk, or fails to return the completed certificate for recording is guilty of a Class I misdemeanor.
False solemnization may not void marriage
If you have the misfortunate of being married by someone who falsely claimed to have the authority to solemnize, it would not void your marriage if you or your spouse believed you were lawfully married at the time.
After your original marriage license and certificate of marriage have been completed by the officiant and returned to the county clerk, it will be filed in office and recorded in the same marriage log book that was used to record your issued license no later than one month following its receipt.
Following recordation by the county clerk, your marriage will be officially registered and legally recognized, from the state's perspective.
DHHS is forwarded a copy
A copy of your recorded license and certificate will be dispatched to the Department of Health and Human Services, which would have earlier received a copy of your application and social security number.
Failure to record
If the county clerk fails to properly record your validly returned marriage license and certificate, or submits a false return, he or she would be guilt of a Class I misdemeanor, which is the same charge applied to phony officiants.
Confirming your marriage's existence
If you're in the unenviable position of having to request your marriage be recorded after the fact, any eyewitness to your marriage ceremony can attest to the facts of the day and event.
From the county
After your marriage has been recorded, you can order a certified copy of your marriage license direct from the county clerk office that issued your documents. You should expect to pay $5 to $15 per copy, as it varies by county.
From state vital records
Certified copies of your marriage license can also be ordered from the state, specifically the vital records office within the Department of Health and Human Services, for $16 a copy—remember, they're forwarded a copy of both your application and recorded license and certificate.
Is the county or state better?
The state must wait until the county clerk sends them their copy, therefore if you need a certified copy sooner rather than later, make sure your officiant returns it promptly and then order it straight from the county clerk.
If you need to order historical copies of long transpired marriages, the state only possesses records between 1909 and the present day. Therefore, if you need older records that delve well into the 1800's, you'll need to obtain them from the county clerk's office.
Generally, it's cheaper to order certified copies from the county compared to the state.
License vs. certificate vs. record
A certified copy of your marriage license is the same as a certified copy of your marriage certificate, certificate of marriage, or marriage record; the phrases are interchangeable.
Name change after marriage
You must obtain a certified copy of your marriage license if you plan to change your middle or last name with the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, or passport office.
Although an abstract copy of your marriage license would be accepted in all Nebraska courts as prima facie evidence of marriage, only a certified copy can be used to effect a marriage name change with state and federal government institutions.
However, abstract copies are typically sufficient for non-government organizations and businesses, such as banks, insurance companies, and professional licenses.
Foreign and out-of-state marriages
If you're a Nebraska resident who marries in another state or country, your marriage would be recognized here if it was lawful where it occurred and not explicitly affirmed void by the laws of this state. Therefore, marrying out-of-state in order to evade this state's marriage laws and statutes may not be effective.
Common-law marriages established on or after January 1, 1923 are not recognized in Nebraska.
If you have a common-law marriage established and recognized in another state, it would not be afforded the same recognition in Nebraska unless it took place prior to 1923.
What's the next step?
Now that you know all the ins and outs of what it takes to get married in Nebraska, the next step is to choose a county clerk office to apply in. Since there are no residency requirements, you can apply for a license in any county. Best of luck to you.