Is Your Marriage Valid If You Phoned-in Your Vows?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Marriage on Wednesday, November 28, 2012.

In Florida, it is pretty easy to get married and divorce. You have to apply for a marriage license, which can be issued by any county court judge or the clerk of court, and then the marriage needs to be solemnized by any ordained clergy, judge, clerk of court, or notary public.

Of course, there are a few impediments to marriage. Impediments to marriage mean the marriage won’t be recognized in Florida, which can turn a lawsuit for a divorce into an annulment. The difference can be important if alimony is in dispute. Who wants to learn they aren’t entitled to alimony because their marriage was invalid?

The impediments to marriage fall into two major categories: the lack of consent or incapacity to consent. For example, the age of consent here is 18. So, with a few exceptions, minors generally can’t marry in Florida. Then there is the Bachelor Party wedding; a Las Vegas style marriage which gets annulled because someone was too drunk to consent.

However, if you are a busy bride on the go, or a groom out of town on business, can you appear for your wedding by phone? Can you email your vows to the priest or rabbi? Is the marriage valid? Florida law is unclear, but the Washington Post reported yesterday on a Maryland case in which validity of a marriage was called into question because the husband was in the Congo during his wedding.

Noel Tshiani wasn’t at his wedding – he listened by phone in another country to the ceremony in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to court records. After about 15 years, the Mrs. Tshiani filed for divorce. Her husband told the divorce judge that he didn’t know about the marriage. That was despite renewing their vows in church, obtaining a green card for his wife and having filed joint tax returns, according to last week’s ruling from the Court of Special Appeals. Soon, he’ll be just as divorced and responsible for alimony and child support, a Maryland court has ruled.

The court noted that the law doesn’t bar Maryland “from recognizing a ceremony where one party participates by proxy – or in the manner that occurred here – and the ceremony is valid in another jurisdiction.”