Marriage Laws for North Carolina
Who can perform marriage in North Carolina, Who can file for a marriage license, and more.
Who can perform marriage in North Carolina, Who can file for a marriage license, and more.
A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each other as husband and wife, freely, seriously and plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other, either: (1) a. In the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate; and b. With the consequent declaration by the minister or magistrate that the persons are husband and wife; or (2) In accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, or federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe. Marriages solemnized before March 9, 1909, by ministers of the gospel licensed, but not ordained, are validated from their consummation.
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 3; Code, s. 1812; Rev., s. 2081; 1908, c. 47; 1909, c. 704, s. 2; c. 897; C.S., s. 2493; 1945, c. 839; 1965, c. 152; 1971, c. 1185, s. 26; 1977, c. 592, s. 1; 2000?58, ss. 1, 2; 2001?14, ss. 1, 2; 2001?62, ss. 1, 17; 2002?115, ss. 5, 6; 2002?159, s. 13(a); 2003?4, s. 1; 2005?56, s. 1; 2007?61, s. 1; 2009?13, s. 1.)
Any marriages performed by ministers of the Universal Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, are validated, unless they have been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction, provided that all other requirements of law have been met and the marriages would have been valid if performed by an official authorized by law to perform wedding ceremonies.
( c. 797.)
Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.
(1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 588, s. 1.)
No minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons, signed by the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant. There must be at least two witnesses to the marriage ceremony. Whenever a man and woman have been lawfully married in accordance with the laws of the state in which the marriage ceremony took place, and said marriage was performed by a magistrate or some other civil official duly authorized to perform such ceremony, and the parties thereafter wish to confirm their marriage vows before an ordained minister or minister authorized by a church, or in a ceremony recognized by any religious denomination, federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe, nothing herein shall be deemed to prohibit such confirmation ceremony; provided, however, that such confirmation ceremony shall not be deemed in law to be a marriage ceremony, such confirmation ceremony shall in no way affect the validity or invalidity of the prior marriage ceremony performed by a civil official, no license for such confirmation ceremony shall be issued by a register of deeds, and no record of such confirmation ceremony may be kept by a register of deeds.
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 4; Code, s. 1813; Rev., s. 2086; C.S., s. 2498; 1957, c. 1261; 1959, c. 338; 1967, c. 957, ss. 6, 9; 1977, c. 592, s. 2; 2001?62, s. 6.)
(a) All unmarried persons of 18 years, or older, may lawfully marry, except as hereinafter forbidden. (a1) Persons over 16 years of age and under 18 years of age may marry, and the register of deeds may issue a license for the marriage, only after there shall have been filed with the register of deeds a written consent to the marriage, said consent having been signed by the appropriate person as follows: (1) By a parent having full or joint legal custody of the underage party; or (2) By a person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party. Such written consent shall not be required for an emancipated minor if a certificate of emancipation issued pursuant to Article 35 of Chapter 7B of the General Statutes or a certified copy of a final decree or certificate of emancipation from this or any other jurisdiction is filed with the register of deeds. (b) Persons over 14 years of age and under 16 years of age may marry as provided in G.S. 51?2.1. (b1) It shall be unlawful for any person under 14 years of age to marry. (c) When a license to marry is procured by any person under 18 years of age by fraud or misrepresentation, a parent of the underage party, a person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party, or a guardian ad litem appointed to represent the underage party pursuant to G.S. 51?2.1(b) is a proper party to bring an action to annul the marriage.
(R.C., c. 68, s. 14; 1871?2, c. 193; Code, s. 1809; Rev., s. 2082; C.S., s. 2494; 1923, c. 75; 1933, c. 269, s. 1; 1939, c. 375; 1947, c. 383, s. 2; 1961, c. 186; 1967, c. 957, s. 1; 1969, c. 982; 1985, c. 608; 1998?202, s. 13(s); 2001?62, s. 2; 2001?487, s. 60.)
(a) If an unmarried female who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, is pregnant or has given birth to a child and the unmarried female and the putative father of the child, either born or unborn, agree to marry, or if an unmarried male who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, is the putative father of a child, either born or unborn, and the unmarried male and the mother of the child agree to marry, the register of deeds is authorized to issue to the parties a license to marry; and it shall be lawful for them to marry in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter, only after a certified copy of an order issued by a district court authorizing the marriage is filed with the register of deeds. A district court judge may issue an order authorizing a marriage under this section only upon finding as fact and concluding as a matter of law that the underage party is capable of assuming the responsibilities of marriage and the marriage will serve the best interest of the underage party. In determining whether the marriage will serve the best interest of an underage party, the district court shall consider the following: (1) The opinion of the parents of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party. (2) The opinion of any person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party. (3) The opinion of the guardian ad litem appointed to represent the best interest of the underage party pursuant to G.S. 51?2.1(b) as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party. (4) The relationship between the underage party and the parents of the underage party, as well as the relationship between the underage party and any person having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party. (5) Any evidence that it would find useful in making its determination. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the marriage will not serve the best interest of the underage party when all living parents of the underage party oppose the marriage. The fact that the female is pregnant, or has given birth to a child, alone does not establish that the best interest of the underage party will be served by the marriage. (b) An underage party seeking an order granting judicial authorization to marry pursuant to this section shall file a civil action in the district court requesting judicial authorization to marry. The clerk shall collect court costs from the underage party in the amount set forth in G.S. 7A?305 for civil actions in district court. Upon the filing of the complaint, summons shall be issued in accordance with G.S. 1A?1, Rule 4, and the underage party shall be appointed a guardian ad litem in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 1A?1, Rule 17. The guardian ad litem appointed shall be an attorney and shall be governed by the provisions of subsection (d) of this section. The underage party shall serve a copy of the summons and complaint, in accordance with G.S. 1A?1, Rule 4, on the father of the underage party; the mother of the underage party; and any person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party. The underage party also shall serve a copy of the complaint, either in accordance with G.S. 1A?1, Rule 4, or G.S. 1A?1, Rule 5, on the guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to this section. A party responding to the underage party's complaint shall serve his response within 30 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that person. The underage party may participate in the proceedings before the court on his or her own behalf. At the hearing conducted pursuant to this section, the court shall consider evidence, as provided in subsection (a) of this section, and shall make written findings of fact and conclusions of law. (c) Any party to a proceeding under this section may be represented by counsel, but no party is entitled to appointed counsel, except as provided in this section. (d) The guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall represent the best interest of the underage party in all proceedings under this section and also has standing to institute an action under G.S. 51?2(c). The appointment shall terminate when the last judicial ruling rendering the authorization granted or denied is entered. Payment of the guardian ad litem shall be governed by G.S. 7A?451(f). The guardian ad litem shall make an investigation to determine the facts, the needs of the underage party, the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs, the impact of the marriage on the underage party, and the ability of the underage party to assume the responsibilities of marriage; facilitate, when appropriate, the settlement of disputed issues; offer evidence and examine witnesses at the hearing; and protect and promote the best interest of the underage party. In fulfilling the guardian ad litem's duties, the guardian ad litem shall assess and consider the emotional development, maturity, intellect, and understanding of the underage party. The guardian ad litem has the authority to obtain any information or reports, whether or not confidential, that the guardian ad litem deems relevant to the case. No privilege other than attorney?client privilege may be invoked to prevent the guardian ad litem and the court from obtaining such information. The confidentiality of the information or reports shall be respected by the guardian ad litem, and no disclosure of any information or reports shall be made to anyone except by order of the court or unless otherwise provided by law. (e) If the last judicial ruling in this proceeding denies the underage party judicial authorization to marry, the underage party shall not seek the authorization of any court again under this section until after one year from the date of the entry of the last judicial ruling rendering the authorization denied. (f) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the rules of evidence in civil cases shall apply to proceedings under this section. All hearings pursuant to this section shall be recorded by stenographic notes or by electronic or mechanical means. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no appeal of right lies from an order or judgment entered pursuant to this section.
(2001?62, s. 3.)
As used in this Article, the terms "parent", "father", or "mother" includes one who has become a parent, father, or mother, respectively, by adoption.
(2001?62, s. 4.)
All marriages between any two persons nearer of kin than first cousins, or between double first cousins, or between a male person under 16 years of age and any female, or between a female person under 16 years of age and any male, or between persons either of whom has a husband or wife living at the time of such marriage, or between persons either of whom is at the time physically impotent, or between persons either of whom is at the time incapable of contracting from want of will or understanding, shall be void. No marriage followed by cohabitation and the birth of issue shall be declared void after the death of either of the parties for any of the causes stated in this section except for bigamy. No marriage by persons either of whom may be under 16 years of age, and otherwise competent to marry, shall be declared void when the girl shall be pregnant, or when a child shall have been born to the parties unless such child at the time of the action to annul shall be dead. A marriage contracted under a representation and belief that the female partner to the marriage is pregnant, followed by the separation of the parties within 45 days of the marriage which separation has been continuous for a period of one year, shall be voidable unless a child shall have been born to the parties within 10 lunar months of the date of separation.
(R.C., c. 68, ss. 7, 8, 9; 1871?2, c. 193, s. 2; Code, s. 1810; 1887, c. 245; Rev., s. 2083; 1911, c. 215, s. 2; 1913, c. 123; 1917, c. 135; C.S., s. 2495; 1947, c. 383, s. 3; 1949, c. 1022; 1953, c. 1105; 1961, c. 367; 1977, c. 107, s. 1.)
All interracial marriages that were declared void by statute or a court of competent jurisdiction prior to March 24, 1977, are hereby validated. The parties to such interracial marriages are deemed to be lawfully married, provided that the provisions of this Chapter have been complied with.
( c. 107, s. 2.)
(a) Subject to the restriction provided in subsection (b), a marriage between a man and a woman licensed and solemnized according to the law of a federally recognized Indian Nation or Tribe shall be valid and the parties to the marriage shall be lawfully married. (b) When the law of a federally recognized Indian Nation or Tribe allows persons to obtain a marriage license from the register of deeds and the parties to a marriage do so, Chapter 51 of the General Statutes shall apply and the marriage shall be valid only if the issuance of the license and the solemnization of the marriage is conducted in compliance with this Chapter.
(2001?62, s. 5.)
When the degree of kinship is estimated with a view to ascertain the right of kinspeople to marry, the half?blood shall be counted as the whole?blood: Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to invalidate any marriage heretofore contracted in case where by counting the half?blood as the whole?blood the persons contracting such marriage would be nearer of kin than first cousins; but in every such case the kinship shall be ascertained by counting relations of the half?blood as being only half so near kin as those of the same degree of the whole?blood.
( c. 78; Code, s. 1811; Rev., s. 2084; C.S., s. 2496.)
Persons, both or one of whom were formerly slaves, who have complied with the provisions of section five, Chapter 40, of the acts of the General Assembly, ratified March 10, 1866, shall be deemed to have been lawfully married.
( c. 40, s. 5; Code, s. 1842; Rev., s. 2085; C.S., s. 2497.)
The register of deeds shall maintain a separate index for marriage licenses and returns thereto. Each marriage license shall be indexed alphabetically according to the name of the proposed husband and proposed wife. Each index entry shall include, but not be limited to, the full name of the intended husband and wife, the date the marriage ceremony was performed, and the location of the original license and the return thereon. The original license and return shall be filed and preserved.
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 9; Code, s. 1818; 1899, c. 541, s. 3; Rev., s. 2091; C.S., s. 2504; 1963, c. 429; 1967, c. 957, s. 8; 1979, c. 636, s. 1; 1983, c. 699, s. 2.)
Every minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State, who marries any couple without a license being first delivered to that person, as required by law, or after the expiration of such license, or who fails to return such license to the register of deeds within 10 days after any marriage celebrated by virtue thereof, with the certificate appended thereto duly filled up and signed, shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200.00) to any person who sues therefore, and shall also be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(R.C., c. 68, ss. 6, 13; 1871?2, c. 193, s. 8; Code, s. 1817; Rev., ss. 2087, 3372; C.S., s. 2499; 1953, c. 638, s. 1; 1967, c. 957, s. 5; 1993, c. 539, s. 415; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2001?62, s. 7.)
Every register of deeds shall, upon proper application, issue a license for the marriage of any two persons who are able to answer the questions regarding age, marital status, and intention to marry, and, based on the answers, the register of deeds determines the persons are authorized to be married in accordance with the laws of this State. In making a determination as to whether or not the parties are authorized to be married under the laws of this State, the register of deeds may require the applicants for the license to marry to present certified copies of birth certificates or such other evidence as the register of deeds deems necessary to the determination. The register of deeds may administer an oath to any person presenting evidence relating to whether or not parties applying for a marriage license are eligible to be married pursuant to the laws of this State. Each applicant for a marriage license shall provide on the application the applicant's social security number. If an applicant does not have a social security number and is ineligible to obtain one, the applicant shall present a statement to that effect, sworn to or affirmed before an officer authorized to administer oaths. Upon presentation of a sworn or affirmed statement, the register of deeds shall issue the license, provided all other requirements are met, and retain the statement with the register's copy of the license. The register of deeds shall not issue a marriage license unless all of the requirements of this section have been met.
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 5; Code, s. 1814; 1887, c. 331; Rev., s. 2088; C.S., s. 2500; 1957, c. 506, s. 1; 1967, c. 957, s. 2; 1997?433, s. 4.5; 1998?17, s. 1; 1999?375, s. 1; 2001?62, s. 8; 2002?159, s. 14.)
If an applicant for a marriage license is over 18 years of age and is unable to appear in person at the register of deeds' office, the other party to the planned marriage must appear in person on behalf of the applicant and submit a sworn and notarized affidavit in lieu of the absent applicant's personal appearance. The affidavit shall be in the following or some equivalent form: __________, [applicant] appearing before the undersigned notary and being duly sworn, says that: 1. I, __________, [applicant's name] am applying for a license in _______ County, North Carolina, to marry _______ [name of other applicant] in North Carolina within the next 60 days and I am authorized under G.S. 51?8.2 to complete this Affidavit in Lieu of Personal Appearance for Marriage License Application. I attach: (1) documentation that I am over 18 years of age as required in county of issuance; and (2) documentation of divorce as required by county of issuance. 2. I submit the following information in applying for a marriage license: Name: ____________________________________________________________ First Middle Last Residence: _________________________________________________________ State County City or Town __________________________________________________________________ Street and Number Inside City Limits (Yes or No): ________________________________________ Birthplace: _________________________________________________________ County & State or Country Birth Date: ______________ Age: ____ Father: ____________________________________________________________ Name State of Birth __________________________________________________________________ Address (if living) or Deceased Mother: ___________________________________________________________ Name State of Birth __________________________________________________________________ Address (if living) or Deceased Race (Optional): ____________________________________________________ Number of this marriage: 1st, 2nd, etc. ___________________________________ Last Marriage Ended by: ______________________________________________ Death, Divorce, Annulment Date Marriage Ended: ________________________________________________ Specify Highest Grade Completed in School (Optional): ____________________ Social Security # ______________ (If applicant does not have Social Security number, attach affidavit of ineligibility) I hereby make application to the Register of Deeds for a Marriage License and solemnly swear that all of the statements contained in the above application are true and I further make oath that there is no legal impediment to such marriage. _______________________ Signature of Applicant Sworn to (or affirmed) and subscribed before me this _____ day of __________, ______. __________________________ [Seal] Notary Public My commission expires: ______ __________________________ [Notary's typed or printed name].
(2001?62, s. 9.)
If any person shall obtain, or aid and abet in obtaining, a marriage license by misrepresentation or false pretenses, that person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
( c. 346; Rev., s. 3371; C.S., s. 2501; 1967, c. 957, s. 4; 1993, c. 539, s. 417; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2001?62, s. 10.)
License shall be in the following or some equivalent form: To any ordained minister of any religious denomination, minister authorized by a church, any magistrate, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State: A.B. having applied to me for a license for the marriage of C.D. (the name of the man to be written in full) of (here state his residence), aged ____ years (race, as the case may be), the son of (here state the father and mother, if known; state whether they are living or dead, and their residence, if known; if any of these facts are not known, so state), and E.F. (write the name of the woman in full) of (here state her residence), aged ____ years (race, as the case may be), the daughter of (here state names and residences of the parents, if known, as is required above with respect to the man). (If either of the parties is under 18 years of age, the license shall here contain the following:) And the written consent of G.H., father (or mother, etc., as the case may be) to the proposed marriage having been filed with me, and there being no legal impediment to such marriage known to me, you are hereby authorized, at any time within 60 days from the date hereof, to celebrate the proposed marriage at any place within the State. You are required within 10 days after you shall have celebrated such marriage, to return this license to me at my office with your signature subscribed to the certificate under this license, and with the blanks therein filled according to the facts, under penalty of forfeiting two hundred dollars ($200.00) to the use of any person who shall sue for the same. Issued this ____ day of ____, ____ ____________________ L.M. Register of Deeds of ____ County Every register of deeds shall, at the request of an applicant, designate in a marriage license issued the race of the persons proposing to marry by inserting in the blank after the word "race" the words "white," "black," "African?American," "American Indian," "Alaska Native," "Asian Indian," "Chinese," "Filipino," "Japanese," "Korean," "Vietnamese," "Other Asian," "Native Hawaiian," "Guamarian," "Chamorro," "Samoan," "Other Pacific Islander," "Mexican," "Mexican?American," "Chicano," "Puerto Rican," "Cuban," "Other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino," or "other," as the case may be. The certificate shall be filled out and signed by the minister, officer, or other authorized individual celebrating the marriage, and also be signed by two witnesses present at the marriage, who shall add to their names their place of residence, as follows: I, N.O., an ordained or authorized minister or other authorized individual of (here state to what religious denomination, or magistrate, as the case may be), united in matrimony (here name the parties), the parties licensed above, on the ___ day of ______, ___, at the house of P.R., in (here name the town, if any, the township and county), according to law. ________________ N.O. Witness present at the marriage: S.T., of (here give residence).
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 6; Code, s. 1815; 1899, c. 541, ss. 1, 2; Rev., s. 2089; 1909, c. 704, s. 3; 1917, c. 38; C.S., s. 2502; 1953, c. 638, s. 2; 1967, c. 957, s. 7; 1971, c. 1072; c. 1185, s. 27; 1999?456, s. 59; 2001?62, s. 11.)
If a person submits to the local register of deeds a current and valid Address Confidentiality Program authorization card issued pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 15C of the General Statutes, the local register of deeds shall use the substitute address designated by the Address Confidentiality Program when creating a new marriage license.
(2002?171, s. 3.)
Every register of deeds who knowingly or without reasonable inquiry, personally or by deputy, issues a license for the marriage of any two persons to which there is any lawful impediment, or where either of the persons is under the age of 18 years, without the consent required by law, shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200.00) to any parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis, who sues for the same: Provided, that requiring a party to a proposed marriage to present a certified copy of his or her birth certificate, or a certified copy of his or her birth record in the form of a birth registration card as provided in G.S. 130?102, in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 51?8, shall be considered a reasonable inquiry into the matter of the age of such party.
(R.C., c. 68, s. 13; 1871?2, c. 193, s. 7; Code, s. 1816; 1895, c. 387; 1901, c. 722; Rev., s. 2090; C.S., s. 2503; 1957, c. 506, s. 2.)
(a) When it shall appear to the register of deeds of any county in this State that information is incorrectly stated on an application for a marriage license, or upon a marriage license issued thereunder, or upon a return or certificate of an officiating officer, the register of deeds is authorized to correct such record or records upon being furnished with an affidavit signed by one or both of the applicants for the marriage license, accompanied by affidavits of at least two other persons who know the correct information. (b) When the name of a party to a marriage has been changed by court order as a result of a legitimation action or other cause of action, and the party whose name is changed presents a signed affidavit to the register of deeds indicating the name change and requesting that the application for a marriage license, the marriage license, and the marriage certificate of the officiating officer be amended by substituting the changed name for the original name, the register of deeds may amend the records as requested by the party, provided the other party named in the records consents to the amendment.
( c. 797; 1959, c. 344; 1987, c. 576; 2001?62, s. 12.)
Any register of deeds who fails to record, in the manner above prescribed, the substance of any marriage license issued by him, or who fails to record, in the manner above prescribed, the substance of any return made thereon, within 10 days after such return made, shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200.00) to any person who sues for the same.
(1871?2, c. 193, s. 10; Code, s. 1819; Rev., s. 2092; C.S., s. 2505.)
In all those cases where a minister or other person authorized by law to perform marriage ceremonies has failed to file his return thereof in the office of the register of deeds who issued the license for such marriage, the register of deeds of such county is authorized to issue a delayed marriage certificate upon being furnished with one or more of the following: (1) The affidavit of at least two witnesses to the marriage ceremony; (2) The affidavit of one or both parties to the marriage, accompanied by the affidavit of at least one witness to the marriage ceremony; (3) The affidavit of the minister or other person authorized by law who performed the marriage ceremony, accompanied by the affidavit of one or more witnesses to the ceremony or one of the parties thereto. (4) When proof as required by the three methods set forth in subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) above is not available with respect to any marriage alleged to have been performed prior to January 1, 1935, the register of deeds is authorized to accept the affidavit of any one of the persons named in subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) and in addition thereto such other proof in writing as he may deem sufficient to establish the marriage and any facts relating thereto; provided, however, that if the evidence offered under this paragraph is insufficient to convince the register of deeds that the marriage ceremony took place, or any of the pertinent facts relating thereto, the applicants may bring a special proceeding before the clerk of superior court of the county in which the purported marriage ceremony took place. The said clerk of the superior court is authorized to hear the evidence and make findings as to whether or not the purported ceremony took place and as to any pertinent facts relating thereto. If the clerk finds that the marriage did take place as alleged, he is to certify such findings to the register of deeds who is to then issue a delayed marriage certificate in accordance with the provisions of this section. The certificate issued by the register of deeds under authority of this section shall contain the date of the delayed filing, the date the marriage ceremony was actually performed, and all such certificates issued pursuant to this section shall have the same evidentiary value as any other marriage certificates issued pursuant to law.
( c. 1224; 1955, c. 246; 1967, c. 957, s. 10; 1969, c. 80, s. 12.)