Common-law marriage has diverse names, from "marriage in fact", "marriage by repute and habit", "informal…
Where to Apply
How do I get married in California?
To get married in California, first apply for a marriage license at a county clerk's office.
But someone told me to visit the county recorder's office?
The county clerk and county recorder position is the same for most counties. Go to the clerk to get your marriage license.
What's a confidential marriage license?
Unlike a public marriage license, a confidential license and subsequent certificate will not become a public record.
Where can I get a confidential marriage license?
County clerks and authorized notaries public sell confidential marriage licenses.
How old must I be to get a confidential marriage license?
You must be 18 years old or older to get a confidential marriage license.
What are the residency requirements?
Your residency is not important. You may apply in any county clerk's office.
Do I have to be an American to marry in California?
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to get married in California.
How much is a marriage license?
A California marriage license costs between $35 and $111. The statewide average is $75.
How much is a marriage certificate?
A certified copy of your marriage certificate costs $15 to $17. It varies by county.
Is a confidential marriage license more expensive?
On average, a confidential marriage license is $6 more than a public license.
Where can I use my marriage license?
You may use your California marriage license in any part of the state.
Can I use my marriage license outside of California?
You cannot use a California marriage license in another state, country, or territory.
Can I get married with a non-California marriage license?
You may not get married in California with an out-of-state marriage license.
What goes on the application?
You must detail the following information on the marriage license application affidavit:
- Bride or groom
- Birth surname
- New middle and last
- Place of birth
- Mailing address
- PO Box ok
- Business address ok
- City, state or country, zip
- Prior marriages
- Last end date
- Last end reason
- Telephone number
- Expected ceremony date
- Parents' birth names and birthplaces
What will appear on the marriage license?
Only your birth name, birthdate, and address will appear on the marriage license.
What if I can't apply in person?
What if I'm U.S. military?
If you're a U.S. service member stationed overseas in conflict, send an attorney-in-fact to apply on your behalf.
What if I can't attend for other reasons?
If you cannot attend for good reason (e.g., jail, hospital), send your officiant to apply.
Can you explain how to apply by proxy?
Sending your attorney-in-fact?
By power of attorney, name the attorney-in-fact. Notarize or have two U.S. officers sign it.
Sending your officiant?
You and your officiant must sign an affidavit that explains your absence.
Can both of us apply absentee through a proxy?
One may apply absentee for military reasons. Both may apply absentee via officiant.
How old must I be to marry?
Aged 18 and over?
If you're at least 18 years old and otherwise qualified, you may marry without court approval.
Aged 17 and under?
If you're 17 years old or younger, you must get a court order from the family court to marry.
What are the rules for underage marriage?
What's the minimum age?
California law does not set a minimum age for marriage.
Is parental consent needed?
The court needs one parent or guardian to grant written consent to their child's marriage.
What if my parents are divorced?
A divorced parent may grant consent, even if they do not have custody.
Do I go to court first or apply first?
Get your court order before applying for a marriage license.
Does my parent come with me when applying?
Your parent need not come with you to apply for a license. Just bring the court order.
What if I have no parent that can or will grant consent?
If no capable parent exists, the court alone will make the final decision.
What's the family court hearing process like?
- Complete questionnaire
- Interview you
- Interview parents
- Prepare a written report
- Order premarital counseling
- Conduct final on-camera interviews
- Grant or deny a court order that permits marriage
Can the court interviews be skipped?
Family court services will skip the interviews if you're 17 years old and show a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (GED).
How soon can I marry after court?
After you get a court order to marry, you must wait 30 days to apply for a marriage license.
Can the 30-day wait be waived?
If you're 16 or 17 years old and pregnant or your proposed spouse is pregnant, you need not wait 30 days to apply.
What's the court filing fee?
There is no court filing fee to submit an application for permission to marry.
What if I'm emancipated?
Emancipated minors too must get court approval to marry.
What if I'm pregnant?
If you're pregnant, permission from the court to marry is still mandatory.
Is there a premarital education program?
State-endorsed premarital education or counseling programs do not exist.
When will I get my marriage license?
You will get your marriage license moments after you apply.
How soon can I marry after getting my license?
You may get married the same day you receive your marriage license.
How long will my marriage license remain valid?
Your marriage license will expire 90 days after issuance. The last day will show on the front.
What if I lose or damage my marriage license?
If you lose or ruin your marriage license, you must buy a new one.
Do I have to show ID?
Show photo ID that has your name and age, such as a driver's license, passport, green card, state ID, or military ID.
What if I don't have a valid ID?
You may substitute photo ID with one or more witness affidavits that vouch for you.
Do I have to show my birth certificate?
Various county clerks may ask to see a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Do I have to show my social security card?
You need not share your social security card or number.
Do I have to get a blood test?
California repealed the syphilis and Rubella premarital blood test provision in 1994.
Do I have to prove I'm divorced?
You may be asked to show proof of divorce or dissolved domestic partnership.
When can I get married after divorce?
You do not have to wait to remarry after divorcing.
Do I have to prove I'm widowed?
If widowed, you do not have to bring a death certificate.
When can I remarry after the death of a spouse?
You do not have to wait to remarry following a spouse's death.
The Name Equality Act of 2007 allows men, women, and same-sex couples to change their names through marriage.
How do I change my name?
Use a certified copy of your marriage certificate to carry out a legal name change.
Do I have to change my name?
Name change is optional, even if a new name is on your marriage certificate.
When do I choose my new name?
Specify your new middle and last name on the marriage license application.
Will my name change as soon as I'm married?
Name change after marriage is not automatic. You must file name change forms.
What are the available last name change options?
You may take your spouse's last name, either's last name at birth, or combine all or part of either's current or birth surname.
What are my middle name change options?
You may replace or merge your middle name with either's current or birth surname.
Can I combine names with a space?
You may combine names with or without a space instead of hyphenating.
Does the order of names matter?
The order of mixed or hyphenated names does not matter.
Do our names have to match?
Your middle and last name choices need not match. You may go in different directions.
Can I change my first name?
You must petition the superior court to change your first name.
Are witnesses required?
If you do not have a confidential marriage license, one or two witnesses must be at your marriage ceremony.
What must witnesses do?
After the ceremony, each witness must sign your marriage license and print their address.
How old must my witnesses be?
California law does not set a minimum age for marriage ceremony witnesses.
Can a witness use a nonresidential address?
Witnesses may print a home, business, or PO Box address.
Who may conduct our marriage?
A religious official, judge, magistrate, or county clerk may solemnize your marriage.
May we officiate our own marriage?
You may not self-solemnize your ceremony. There must be a separate officiant.
Does our officiant have to be registered?
Your officiant does not have to register their credentials with the state.
When must the marriage license be returned?
Your officiant must return your marriage license within 10 days after marriage.
Where is the return sent?
Returning a public license?
Return a public marriage license to the county recorder in the county of issuance.
Returning a confidential license?
Return a confidential marriage license to the county clerk who issued it.
What's the difference between a marriage license and certificate?
Your marriage license turns into a certificate after you're married. It's a change in title for the same document.
How do I order a copy of my marriage certificate?
Ordering a public copy?
The county recorder in the county where you got your marriage license can sell you a certified copy.
Ordering a confidential copy?
The county clerk who issued you your confidential marriage license can sell you a certified copy.
Who may purchase certified copies?
Anyone may buy public copies. Only the couple may buy confidential copies.
What if I can't attend my ceremony?
U.S. military stationed overseas in conflict can marry-by-proxy if they apply-by-proxy.
What if neither of us can attend the ceremony?
At least one party to the marriage must be at the ceremony.
What if I'm in prison or the hospital?
The hospitalized and incarcerated may apply by proxy, but not marry that way.
Can I marry a fist cousin?
Marriage between first cousins is legal in California.
Can I marry a family member?
You may not marry an ascendant, descendant, sibling, half-sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
Will California honor my out-of-state marriage?
If your out-of-state marriage was legal where established, California will accept it too.
May I enter into a common-law marriage?
California abolished common-law marriage in 1895.
Is my out-of-state common-law marriage legit?
California will recognize a valid out-of-state common-law marriage.