FAQs on Marriage in VA
This page answers the most frequently asked questions about marriage in Virginia. This page is intended to give general information only and is not intended to give legal advice. If you have a question about your situation, you should consult a VA attorney familiar with family law. For a confidential appointment with Attorney Virginia Perry, you may call (804) 520-7060 or click here to go to the contact page and submit a request for someone to contact you.
What is required to get married?
You must obtain a a valid marriage license; To obtain one, you and your fiancé(e) must sign an application issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the city or county where either of you usually lives, and pay the applicable license tax at the time the license is issued. After you have obtained a valid marriage license, your marriage ceremony must be performed within 60 days of the date your license is issued. You must have the marriage license before you have the ceremony. A qualified minister, any judge, or a person appointed by the court can perform the ceremony. Usually the clerk of the circuit court will have business cards of persons authorized to perform marriages in her/his office. You cannot legally marry a relative closer to you than a cousin, even if the relationship is by half-blood. You cannot marry your step- or adopted brother, sister, child or parent, even if the adoption or step-relationship is by a previous marriage. If you have been married before, you must first obtain a valid divorce in the previous marriage to marry again. Virginia does not allow legal same-sex marriage or recognize any official status to such relationships. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited by statute in Virginia, and such marriages or domestic partnerships, even if recognized in another state, are deemed null and void in Virginia, and any rights created by or in that state are unenforceable in Virginia. [This may include rights created by contract in another state, if the t terms of the contract are in contravention of Virginia law.] You and your fiancé(e) should disclose all relevant information to each other now that may be grounds for voiding your marriage later, such as impotency, felony conviction, religious orders, whether one of you is already the parent of someone else’s child, or other relevant information as provided for by Virginia law.
Is there an age requirement for marriage in VA?
Yes. The minimum age at which you can marry is 16, except in the case of pregnancy, which must be verified by a physician's certificate. Persons under the age of 18 must have the consent of their parent or guardian, unless they have been married before or have been judicially emancipated.
What if a minor misrepresents his/her age and marries?
In such a case, the parent or parents of the under age person may bring an action to annul the marriage. The judge would then conduct a hearing and determine whether it would be in the best interest of the minor to validate or to annul the marriage.
Does Virginia recognize "Common Law" marriage?
The short answer is no, Virginia does not recognize "Common Law" marriage. The longer answer is that it depends upon the circumstances. A "Common Law" marriage takes place when the two parties live together holding themselves out as married, despite not having obtained a marriage license or participated in a formal wedding or marriage ceremony. State laws of other jurisdictions specify the period of years necessary to accomplish a "Common Law" marriage. Merely cohabiting together in a jurisdiction which recognizes "Common Law" marriage, even for an extended period, is not enough for "Common Law" marriage; it is also necessary that the couple express the intention to be married and to further hold themselves out as married. Virginia law does not allow for or specify any period of time or manner to circumvent the requirements for a license and ceremony. Historically, if a couple have cohabited in another jurisdiction holding themselves out as married where such marriages are deemed valid and did in fact cohabit for the period of time specified under the laws of that jurisdiction to become recognized as married, Virginia has also recognized such marriages.
What is the Virginia Marriage Protection Act?
The Marriage Protection Act of 1997 (VC Sec. 20-45.2) states: "A marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited. Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created by such marriage shall be void and unenforceable."
What is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?
In 1996, Congress adopted the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Pub. L. 104-199, 100 Stat. 2419 (Sept. 21, 1996). There are two parts to the statute, one defining marriage for purposes of federal law and the other affirming the power of the several states to make their own decisions about marriage. Specifically, the statute defines "marriage" as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and defines "spouse" as " a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." The statute further states, "No State, territory, or possession of the United Sates, or Indian tribe, shall be reqruied to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other Satate, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under thelaws of such other State, territory, possession or tribe or a right, or claim arising from such relationship."
This statute was enacted in response to a decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court suggesting that there is a right to same-sex marriage in the Hawaii Constitution and concerns about the effect that legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii would have on other states, on federal laws, on the institution of marriage, on traditional notions of morality and on state sovereignty.
What about a pre-nup?
Click here to go to the library page explaining pre-nuptial agreements or pre-marital agreements. That page addresses what may and what may not be included in such agreements.