Marriage in North Carolina
What Constitutes a Valid Marriage in North Carolina?
For a marriage in North Carolina to be considered valid in North Carolina, the following requirements must be met:
- Two people must be present;
- With the legal capacity to marry;
- They both have consented to be married;
- This is expressed in each other’s presence; and is conducted
- In the presence of an authorized person, such as a magistrate or minister.
- Unless a religion or federally or state recognized Indian Nation or Tribe recognizes the ceremony without officiating.
What Requirements Give Someone the Legal Capacity to Marry?
In order to have the legal capacity to marry, a person must be eighteen or older. If a person is between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, they may only marry after written consent is filed with the Register of Deeds office. The written consent must be signed by a parent, institution, agency or guardian who has legal custody over the individual.
The requirement of having legal capacity also refers to the mental capacity of the parties. A person may not have legal capacity to enter into marriage if they have:
- The inability to understand the rights and obligations of marriage;
- The agreement to marry was made under duress or undue influence;
- A mental disorder which prevents them from understanding the agreement to marry.
Further, having the legal capacity to marry is also determined by the relationship of the parties. In North Carolina, persons who are nearer of kin than first cousins do not have the capacity to marry. Such a marriage would be “voidable.”
What if the Parties to a Marriage in North Carolina Are Below the Age of 16?
Under certain circumstances, the Register of Deeds may issue a license to marry for individuals under the age of sixteen. For this to happen, the court needs to make a finding that marriage will serve the best interests of the underaged party, and the court must consider the parents’ and/or appointment guardian’s views. This situation generally comes up when a male between the ages of 14-16 represents to be the putative father of a child born out of the relationship, or when a female between the ages of 14-16 is pregnant, or has given birth to the child. Both parties must consent to the marriage.
To read about marriage in the immigration context, click here.
To read about divorce in North Carolina, click here.
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