In Utah, marriage is a civil contract that must be entered into voluntarily. In order to enter a marriage contract, a marriage license must be issued by the county clerk from any county clerk's office.
This document will walk you through the process of how to apply for a marriage license and what to expect afterward, including the process of solemnization and recording.
Although most couples submit their marriage application together, there are some county clerk offices that will allow you to apply separately. This is not a universally adopted practice, but if it is allowed the following steps is generally how it's conducted.
Assuming you're not the absentee applicant, you'll go in to fill in your part of the application. The clerk will attach a photocopy of your ID to the application. Before leaving, you'll tell the clerk how long to hold the application. Your future spouse comes in later to fill in their part, shows their ID, and then pays the license fee.
The marriage license fee ranges from $20 to $50 throughout the state. The most common fee is pretty evenly divided between $30, $40, and $50, so there's no real consistency from county to county. Whatever you pay is nonrefundable.
Your license fee includes two complementary certified copies of your marriage certificate, which will be sent to you after your marriage is solemnized and license and certificate of marriage is recorded by the county clerk.
Some county clerk offices will not charge a fee for your license, but will for your two certificates. This is one of the reasons why there's such pricing inconsistency throughout the state.
While the state requires a minimum set of questions be asked, it's up to each county clerk's office to design, print, and distribute the marriage application form.
The application is simple, and shouldn't present you much trouble. You'll be expected to answer the following simple questions:
Provide your full current legal name, including first, middle, and last. If your last name at birth differs from your current last name, then you must specify this separately. For women, this is referred to as your maiden name. For men, you must also specify if your birth surname differs from the current.
Your address is used to mail you a certified copy of your marriage certificate. It's also used to contact you if a problem arises in the recording of your marriage certificate.
Place of birth
If born in the United States, specify the city or town, county, and state or territory. If born in another country, just specify the country name.
Specify how many times you've been married and when and how (e.g., death, divorce, annulment) the last one ended.
Race and education
You may be asked to specify your race, ethnic background, and highest education level completed. This is solely for vital statistic purposes and is optional.
If known, provide both your parent's names (including maiden name) and places of birth. This is collected for vital statistics purposes and is not related to satisfying any parental consent requirement.
Social security number
Specify your social security number, if you have one. It won't appear on your issued marriage license and it won't be visible on public records.
The Department of Health's Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics will be in possession of your social security number, and upon request will make it available to its internal Office of Recovery Services for the purpose of enforcing child support payments.
Requirements vary by age. How old are you?
Age 18 and older
If you're 18 years old or older, you can marry without consent from a parent or guardian.
Age 16 and 17
If you're either 16 or 17 years old, you must obtain consent to marry from your parent or guardian.
If you're 15 years old, you must obtain consent to marry from your parent or guardian and authorization from a judge of the juvenile court.
Age 14 and younger
If you're 14 years old or younger, you cannot get married. This embargo has been in place since May 3, 1999.
Who grants consent?
If your parents are together, either can grant consent.
If your parents are divorced and share joint custody of you, the parent that has physical custody of you most of the time is the one who grants consent; otherwise the parent who has legal custody of you grants consent.
If you have a legal guardian, he or she must grant consent and present guardianship papers to the clerk.
Whoever grants consent for you to marry must put it in writing, in the presence of the county clerk. The clerk will provide the consent form and direct your parent or guardian to sign it and take an oath affirming their consent.
If you're a minor who's been previously married, the consent requirement is waived.
If a person impersonates or forges the name or signature of a parent or guardian in order to help a minor obtain a marriage license, that person would be guilty of a third degree felony.
Juvenile court authorization
Getting authorization from the juvenile court to marry pertains to minors who are 15 years old. The juvenile court judge must be from the same county where either of you live. An appointment must be made and hearing scheduled.
The judge will issue a written authorization for you to marry if they find you're entering the marriage voluntarily and it will serve your best interest. If a judge isn't available, a court commissioner can substitute.
You and your prospective spouse will be required to take a premarital education course. If one is not readily available in your area, the judge may waive the requirement. The judge may also require you to continue attending school as well as any other condition that's considered reasonable.
Bring valid identification that confirms your age and identity, such as a certified copy of your birth certificate, driver's license, state ID card (from Utah), military ID card, or passport.
Social security number validation
In addition to the requisite primary ID, if you have a social security number you must bring your social security card. If you've misplaced your card, either get another one or bring alternative documentation that shows your number, such as a W-2 form, tax return, or bank statement.
Parent or guardian ID
Birth certificate for minors
If you're underage, meaning you're below the age of 18, the original or certified copy of your birth certificate must be provided by your consenting parent or guardian, if available.
There are no waiting periods. You'll receive your license the same day you apply. You can marry as soon as it's issued.
Your marriage license will expire 30 days after its been issued.
You do not need to get a blood test in order to get a marriage license in Utah. Many years ago, the state did utilize blood testing as a precondition for obtaining a marriage license, but it had a sordid history of abuse, including the invalidation of marriages where either spouse was afflicted with the AIDS virus.
If you've been divorced in the past six months, you may be asked to present a certified copy of your final divorce decree to the county clerk. This requirement of proof varies from county to county; some will want to see proof if you've been divorced within the past month, while others won't even bother asking for confirmation.
If you're a widower, most clerks won't ask to see a copy of your spouse's death certificate, but there's nothing to preclude them from asking: bring it if you have it.
If you were to marry any of the following members of your family, it would be void from inception due to its incestuous nature.
- First cousin (see exception)
Marriage between any degree of ancestors and descendants is prohibited, as is marriage between half or whole blood siblings.
First cousin exception
Both 65 years old or older
If you and your first cousin are 65 years old or older, you are allowed to marry.
Both 55 years old or older
If you and your first cousin are 55 years old or older, you can marry as long as either of you cannot reproduce. A district court that's located in the district where either of you lives must establish this fact of sterilization.
If you having a living husband or wife, you can't marry someone else until you've divorced your prior spouse. Doing otherwise would be a bigamous undertaking, a violation of law, and would result in your subsequent marriage being declared void.
If you're a minor who's gotten married, or you're an adult who marries a minor, your marriage can be declared void if any consent and/or judicial authorization requirements were violated.
The term "solemnization" means to perform or preside over a marriage. Solemnization cannot occur without a valid unexpired marriage license.
Who may solemnize?
The state authorizes a wide array of officials who may solemnize marriages, from judges to elected officers.
Any county clerk in this state, and their designees, may carry out solemnizations. Such designees are typically deputy county clerks.
You can be married by a judge, justice, or commissioner of a court of record of this state; an out-of-state judge, as long as they're a judge of a court of record in their state; or a federal judge, justice, or magistrate.
Federal judges include: justices of the Supreme Court; judges of district court, court of appeals, bankruptcy court, tax court; or a U.S. magistrate.
Your marriage may be solemnize by a minister, priest, or rabbi of any religious denomination as long as they're at least 18 years old, remains in good standing with the religious society, and maintains and ongoing affiliation with said religious society.
Your marriage may be solemnized by a variety of state politicos, including the governor and lieutenant governor; general assembly leaders, specifically the speaker of the House of Representatives or the president of the Senate; county executives; and municipal mayors.
A Native American spiritual advisor of a federally recognized Native American tribe may perform solemnizations. Spiritual advisor is abroad term that references a holy man, holy woman, medicine man, medicine woman, or sweat lodge leader.
Utah has eight federally recognized Indian tribes:
- Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Indians
- Navajo Nation
- Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Nation
- Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
- Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians of Utah
- Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation
- Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
There must be two adult witnesses present during your marriage ceremony. Witnesses cannot be you, your prospective spouse, or the officiant.
Endorsing the license
Once your ceremony concludes, your officiant must endorse, or certify, the license: specifically the bottom certificate portion of the license. The following must be affixed to the certificate: officiant's name, title, and signature; date and place the ceremony was held; you and your spouse's signatures; and names of both witnesses.
Returning the license
Once your license has been endorsed by your officiant, it must be returned to the county clerk that issued it within 30 days after the ceremony so that it may be recorded. Failure to do so would be a misdemeanor offense.
If your marriage is solemnized by someone who has no authority to do so, it wouldn't invalidate your marriage as long as either you or your spouse believed the person to be genuine and your marriage was lawfully carried out. The imposter who performed the solemnization would be guilty of a third degree felony.
Of course, this wouldn't suddenly validate a marriage that's violates any of the state's prohibited marriage restrictions.
Unlawful solemnization of a minor
If an officiant solemnizes a marriage without a license for a person who's 15 years old or younger, and the youngster didn't present written authorization to get married from a juvenile court, the officiant would have committed a third degree felony.
Solemnization with expired or nonexistent license
In actuality, solemnizing a marriage without a license or with an expired license, regardless of the ages of the parties to the marriage, would still be a third degree felony. The prior mention of conducting an unauthorized marriage of a minor is considered such an especially egregious offence, the state saw fit to specially mention it, even though it carries the same felony weight.
Solemnizing prohibited marriage
Prohibited marriages are based on blood-relations, bigamy, and age limitations. If anyone were to knowingly solemnize such a marriage, they would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor, if the parties to the marriage were adults, or guilty of a harsher third degree felony, if either party to the marriage was a minor.
Once your endorsed license and certificate has been returned to the clerk for recording, both will be filed, archived in office, registered in a handwritten or digital log book, and indexed by both you and your spouse's names. The copy of the license and certificate will be dispatched to the state's office of vital statistics and statistics.
As mentioned in the fees section, you'll receive two certified copies of your marriage certificate after it's been recorded. If you need additional copies, you can order them from either the county clerk's office or the state's vital records office.
Name change after marriage
You must have a certified copy of your marriage certificate in order to change your name with various governmental institutions, such as the Social Security Administration, DMV, or passport office.
Common law marriage
Although Utah does not recognize common law marriage, it does recognize a slight variation where a couple can petition the court to recognize their relationship as a marriage, even though no marriage license was issued and no marriage ceremony ever took place.
In order for the court to rule that your non-marriage should be recognized as a marriage, you must both be at least 18 years old or older; are technically capable of getting married, for real; have lived together; have taken on the duties, responsibilities, and rights of a real married couple; and conduct and present yourselves as a married couple to others.
If the court approves your request, you will retroactively be recognized as married starting from the day the previous stated conditions have been met.
When can the court be petitioned?
You can submit such a petition during the relationship or up to one year after its ending. How it ended is irrelevant: unilateral or mutual split or death of a spouse.
Who can petition the court?
At the outset, it was mentioned that the couple could file a petition to get their common-law-like marriage acknowledged. That's true, but the net of allowable petitioners is actually wider and more flexible: you or your partner could file the petition separately; you could file it together; or a third-party, such as a family member, can file it on your behalf.
Backdating vs. getting married
Going through the effort of getting your faux marriage recognized as real is primarily used in order to backdate the origin of your marriage. If you don't care about this, it's more efficient and cost-effective to just get married for real.
If either you or your spouse (or soon-to-be-spouse) is a resident of Utah and you decide to marry outside of the state, that marriage will be recognized as valid here as long as it doesn't violate any age constraints or prohibited marriage criterion.
You are not required, or even able, to register (for recording) an out-of-state or out-of-country marriage through this state's county clerk offices; it's not necessary anyway, as your non-Utah/foreign certificate of marriage would be perfectly acceptable to serve as proof of marriage and to facilitate other functions, such as changing your name with various government institutions.
History of invalidated marriages
Throughout the state's history, certain types of marriages have been retroactively validated, as long as it would not have been otherwise prohibited by current day law.
Chronic epileptic fits
In 1963, the state retroactively validated marriages where either party was susceptible to chronic epileptic fits and had not been sterilized.
Utah had passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1852, which barred interracial marriage between Whites and Blacks, Asians, and Filipinos. On May 14, 1963, the state rescinded its anti-miscegenation practices through an act that erased the prior list of outlawed marriages that were based on race. Impacted marriages that took place prior to this date were deemed lawful.
This revocation took place four years prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws throughout the nation.
AIDS or other STD's
In 1987, Utah passed a law that effectively invalidated any marriage contracted by a person who had Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). In 1993, Peggy Tingey and Cindy Kidd sued the state which resulted in the law being overturned.
Stephen J. Rees, the Republican State Senator who represented Salt Lake City and sponsored the original 1987 law later agreed that it should be rescinded stating, "I don't know what we were thinking."
Any marriage established prior to October 21, 1993 that was invalidated due to the overturned 1987 law that affected persons with AIDS, gonorrhea, or syphilis was deemed valid, as long as it didn't violate any prohibited marriage provisions.