Marriage by mail?

We recently received a call inquiring what the alternatives are for getting married in Idaho, if any. Take, for example, two people who live in different states, can’t travel for some reason, but still want to marry.

In Idaho (as with most states), before you can get married, you have to apply for a marriage license. (Marrying without a license is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of between $50 and $200.) According to Idaho law, the county recorder must issue a marriage license if the recorder has personal knowledge that the parties are competent to be married and upon payment of the fee. (This would include information such as that the parties are of age, aren’t already married to someone else, and aren’t too closely related like first cousins.) If the recorder doesn’t have personal knowledge that the parties are competent, then the parties have to present affidavits swearing under oath that they are competent to marry. The recorders also generally require presentation of some other proof of identity and age, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport.

Once the license is issued, the parties need to have the marriage solemnized, either through a traditional wedding ceremony or before a judge or other designated official. Idaho licenses are only valid for marriage in Idaho. Once the marriage is solemnized, the officiant submits a form to the recorder that states the marriage has happened, and that’s the finish.

There appears to be no specific legal requirement that the parties apply in person for a marriage license, but it appears the county recorders require that as part of the process. It is a requirement that the parties are in Idaho for purposes of the solemnization ceremony, but it is not clear whether a Skype marriage between someone in Coeur d’Alene and someone in Boise would be valid. The implication is that such a long-distance marriage would be valid, so long as the officiant is confident that the requirements of marriage are met and that the parties “declare, in the presence of the person solemnizing the marriage that they take each other as husband and wife.”

As a final note, you can no longer enter into a common law marriage in Idaho (that is, a marriage without license and ceremony, based on a long-term cohabitation and intention to be married). Common law marriages that formed prior to January 1, 1996 remain valid.

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