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Florida Marriage Requirements

marriage-requirementsA fundamental requirement for a valid marriage in Florida is that each party must have the ‘capacity’ (the ability) to both knowledgeably and voluntarily enter into a contract, like a regular business contract. Currently in Florida, the parties must also be of opposite genders. As of 2013, seventeen states and Washington, D.C., allow same-gender marriage, and four other states allow civil unions; 33 states ban same-gender marriages.

To marry, the parties have to obtain a license and usually pay a fee. This process is an opportunity for government officials to inquire into the capacity (discussed above) of the parties. Also, the parties have an opportunity to participate in a voluntary premarital preparation course which reduces the fee. Participation in the voluntary premarital preparation course also allows for the parties to waive the otherwise mandatory three-day waiting period between the license being issues and the actual ceremony.

To cap things off, there must actually be a ceremony, which can be very elaborate or quite limited. Basically, a ceremony requires are an ‘officiant’ (the person who conducts the ceremony), witnesses, and an exchange of promises between the parties. The ‘officiant’ may be a member of the clergy or a public official (like a notary) who is authorized to give an oath, the witnesses make sure the parties exchange promises, and the parties exchange the promises.

The parties have several obligations in Florida. For example, the parties have an obligation (a duty) to support each other. And, the parties have an obligation for sexual exclusivity. On the other hand, being joined in marriage does not minimize either party, legally. The individual legal identity of each is maintained and each is individually liable for contracts and torts. This means there is no vicarious liability between spouses. Also, spouses can sue each other, as there is no interspousal tort immunity, either. Speaking of identities, in Florida, the wife can adopt the husband’s name or keep her own name. If she wants to do anything else, name-wise, a court order is required (such as if she wants a hyphenated name or if the husband wants to take her name).