Is Eloping Legal? Exploring the Legalities of Eloping

What exactly is eloping?

According to Merriam-Webster, eloping is defined as “running away secretly with the intention of getting married, usually without parental consent.” However, it can also mean “escaping” from traditional wedding expectations. If you’re considering eloping with your partner to the nearest chapel, there are some important legal considerations to keep in mind.

Do you need a marriage license to elope?

The short answer is yes. Marriage licenses are required in every state. However, keep in mind that each state has different requirements for obtaining a marriage license. For instance, in California, both parties must appear in person at the County Clerk’s Office and provide valid photo identification to apply for a marriage license. Additionally, certain states, like Louisiana, may have waiting periods before and after receiving the license.

While you may have heard that a blood test is necessary to get married, this is mostly a myth. In the past, some states, such as Mississippi, required a blood test for a marriage license. However, nowadays, most states have eliminated this requirement through informed consent.

What are the costs associated with eloping?

The cost of a marriage license varies from state to state and can be reduced with proper preparation. For example, in Georgia, you can lower fees associated with your marriage license by completing an approved premarital counseling course and providing proof of completion.

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Generally, fees for marriage licenses range from $100 to $200. This fee typically covers the license itself and a copy after it’s signed and filed. It’s important to note that while the cost of getting married may seem affordable, the expenses associated with divorce can be much higher. In California, for instance, filing fees for divorces can reach as high as $435.

Is an officiant necessary when eloping?

The person who performs your wedding ceremony is called the marriage officiant. Depending on your state, various individuals, including clergypersons, ship captains, and shamans, may be authorized to officiate weddings. An example that comes to mind is when Joey officiated Monica and Chandler’s wedding in the TV show Friends.

In California, it’s a legal requirement for anyone officiating a wedding to complete the marriage license and return it to the County Recorder’s office within ten days of the event for registration. Each state has its own regulations regarding who can officiate weddings, so it’s crucial to check with your state and county for specific requirements.

Do you need witnesses when eloping?

Witness requirements vary from state to state. Some states require at least one witness to be present at your ceremony, while others mandate at least two witnesses. On the other hand, certain states, including Florida, do not require any witnesses at all. Marriage licenses often have instructions printed on them, specifying the exact number of witnesses required and where they should sign. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your local county to ensure you meet the witness requirements.

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The allure of eloping in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada is renowned as an elopement destination for many couples. The legal system in Las Vegas allows couples to obtain a marriage license without any waiting period. Couples can even pre-register online and collect their license from the Marriage License Bureau by presenting their identifications. The Marriage License Bureau near the Strip in Las Vegas issues marriage licenses every day from 8 am to midnight.

In contrast, other states may require couples to gather information about marriage, provide sworn affidavits, and wait for the paperwork to be processed before receiving their marriage license. For instance, in Florida, newlyweds must certify that they have read the Family Law Handbook created by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.

While many states don’t require reading about marriage before issuing the license, family lawyers often advise considering a Prenuptial Agreement. This ensures that couples have a clear understanding of their state’s property laws in the event of divorce. Keep in mind that in California and some other states, each person must be represented by a separate independent attorney, fully disclose their finances (including assets and debts), and receive the final agreement at least seven days before signing. While these requirements may impact honeymoon planning, family lawyers emphasize the importance of prioritizing caution.

Plan accordingly and enjoy the summer wedding season!

This article contains general legal information and is not a substitute for legal advice. Garrity Traina is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and subject to frequent changes. For legal advice, it’s recommended to consult with a lawyer.

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