Growing up I'd occasionally hear talk about someone who lived with their old lady or their old man and considered themselves married even though they never got legally married. I can't remember where. Heck, perhaps it wasn't even really anything in real life, more a plot point in some legal drama on TV. What that's actually called is common law marriage, and it's not recognized by many states including Missouri. You're probably thinking, ok cool, but how does that impact whether or not you need a marriage license in Missouri?

Well, you can't just shack up and share a bed, an apartment, or a home and magically get the benefits and protections of being married. According to Shea Kohl Attorneys At Law, "The State of Missouri does not recognize common law marriage. All common-law marriages in Missouri are declared 'null and void' by state law.  So yes, if you want to get married in Missouri you're going to need a marriage license.

However, the law firm asserts on its website, that couples moving to Missouri from a common law marriage state, like Kansas, could have their marriage recognized based on the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause. I'd check with a lawyer before assuming that, though.

What should you know about marriage licenses in Missouri? According to the Recorders' Association of Missouri:

  • Both applicants need to show up and present themselves to the recorder of deeds, or his or her deputy.
  • You must be sixteen years of age or older to be married in Missouri. If you're under eighteen you need parental permission. And if you're over twenty-one, a license will not be issued if you want to marry someone under eighteen. Proof of age is required.
  • The license will be issued at the time of application if it's within 30 days of the ceremony.
  • Marriage licenses are good for 30 days, then are void.
  • The license must be picked up prior to the ceremony and must be given to the officiant of the wedding prior to performing the ceremony.
  • The officiant of the wedding must return the marriage license signed within 15 days of the ceremony.

So can you get married if you lost the marriage license on your way to the ceremony? Or you misplaced it in a stack of bills? Or left it on the kitchen table?

According to American Marriage Ministries, a certified IRS 501C3 non-profit church, which is a non-denominational church that ordains people online so they officiate weddings. It's not a good idea, because in many states your officiant of the wedding is committing a misdemeanor if he or she performs a wedding ceremony without the certificate. The Recorders' Association of Missouri tends to back that up when they point out that the wedding officiant needs the license prior to performing the ceremony.

The bottom line, a license is needed to get married in Missouri. You don't, however, need to be a resident to get one.

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