Getting engaged is an exciting time in life. You and your fiancé look forward to a bright future together, and it is easy for you and your families to become wrapped up in planning the wedding and otherwise preparing for the next chapter of your lives together.
There are, however, a few logistical matters — and legal requirements — to consider as you prepare for your upcoming nuptials.
You must obtain a marriage license.
Applying for a marriage license is a key step in order to become legally married under Florida law. The process for applying for your marriage license is straightforward. The following is a quick checklist:
- Go to the Clerk’s office together in order to complete the application for a marriage license;
- Bring the required photo identification; and
- Be prepared to pay the fee for the license.
Timing is a critical factor in the process of obtaining a marriage license. The license is valid only for 60 days. If the marriage ceremony does not occur within that period, a couple must reapply for the license. Moreover, once the marriage license is issued, Florida residents must wait three days to get married (unless the couple attends a premarital course). There is no waiting period for non-Florida residents.
After the ceremony is complete, the individual authorized to conduct the ceremony signs the license and returns it to the Clerk of Court. It will then be recorded by the Clerk’s office, thereby evidencing the couple’s legal marriage.
What if one of us was married before?
The process of applying for a marriage license ensures that each individual has the legal capacity to marry pursuant to applicable law. If one party was married previously, that party can proceed with the new marriage only if the prior marriage was dissolved or terminated as a matter of law.
If you were married previously, then you are required to provide the Clerk of Court with the exact date of divorce, death or annulment, as well as other identifying information related to the termination of the prior marriage. For illustration purposes, if your prior marriage ended by way of divorce, then the application will require you to provide the date on which the final judgment of dissolution of marriage was entered, as well as the state and county in which the dissolution proceeding occurred. It may be helpful to bring a copy of the final judgment of dissolution of marriage when you apply for your marriage license.
Preparation for your upcoming nuptials is crucial.
An engagement, of course, is the precursor to the commitments that a couple wishes to solidify with their marriage. Being prepared prior to the wedding can help ease any stress or anxiety associated with the process and legal formalities required to become legally married. For example, couples should ensure that they factor in the time needed to apply for their marriage license (as detailed above). It may also be helpful to consider the following:
- Consider taking the premarital preparation course: This is not required, but the details of the course can help guide couples as they enter this new chapter of their lives. As an added benefit, the three-day waiting period associated with the marriage license is waived when a couple completes the premarital preparation course.
- Consider entering into a prenuptial agreement: A prenuptial agreement is not required, but should be strongly considered. Prenuptial agreements are effective mechanisms for the proactive resolution of issues that could arise when a marriage ends in divorce or death. Among other things, a prenuptial agreement affords the couple with the ability to avoid potentially contentious and costly litigation.
You should relish in the excitement of your engagement — this is a joyous and momentous time in your lives. Understanding the legal requirements to become married will help streamline the process so that you can focus on your nuptials and enjoy this special time together.