This is with reference to your February 26, 1986 inquiry concerning whether the failure
to record a Indiana marriage license renders the marriage void.
The relevant facts appear to be as follows. Richard L. H~ died August 21, 1981. The
claimant filed for mother's insurance benefits on September 23, 1981 and was found
entitled to such benefits effective August 1981. Claimant advised SSA on November
14, 1983 she married Steven M~ on October 29, 1983 in Lawrence County, Indiana, thus
terminating her mother's insurance benefits. She applied for survivor's insurance
benefits on February 14, 1984 giving ~, Virginia Beach, Virginia as her home address.
Claimant applied for mother's insurance benefits on January 21, 1986 indicating that
she is living with her mother and two children in Temple, Texas, and her husband is
still living in Virginia Beach.
In December 1985 claimant requested that her benefits be reinstated because several
lawyers told her that the failure to record her October 29, 1983 marriage to Steven
M~ rendered it void. The District Office contacted the Lawrence County Clerk's Office.
That office has a record of the marriage license being obtained, but does not have
a record of the marriage license being returned and recorded. The claimant stated
that she went through a marriage ceremony performed by a minister in Indiana on October
29, 1983. The minister was contacted, verified he performed the marriage ceremony,
and stated that he gave the completed form to the couple to be recorded. However,
claimant states that she never saw the license again after giving it to the minister
before the ceremony.
The applicable Indiana statutory provision states:
Every person who shall solemnize any marriage, by virtue of the provisions of this
chapter, shall at such time give the original certificate to the persons married by
him and, within thirty (30) days thereafter, file the duplicate certificate in the
office of the clerk of the county in which the license was issued, which certificate
shall be recorded by the clerk, together with such license ....
Ind. Code Ann. 31-1-1-5 (West 1985). The minister failed to adhere to the statutory
requirement. Thus, the issue is whether the failure of the minister to file the original
certificate rendered the claimant's marriage to Steven M~ void.
Indiana was an early subscriber to the view that "the presumption in favor of matrimony
is one of the strongest known to the law." Teter v. Teter, 101 Ind. 129, 132 (1885). See also Rainier v. Snider, 174 Ind. App. 615, 369 N.E. 2d 666, 668 (1977). In Teter, the Court said at 101 Ind. 134:
Persons may be punished for not obtaining licenses to marry, or for not taking steps
to secure a proper record of the marriage, but there may, nevertheless, be a valid
marriage. The want of form, or the lack of ceremonial rites, does not impair a marriage
contract, in cases where it is entered into from good motives and with an intention
to contract a present marriage, and is followed by an open acknowledgment of the marital
relation. (emphasis added)
By legislative enactment prohibiting common law marriages, the failure to obtain a
marriage license rendered a marriage void in Indiana effective January 1, 1958. Ind.
Code Ann. 31-1-1-3, 31-1-6-1 (West 1985); Williams v. Williams, 460 N.E. 2d 1226 (Ind. App. 3 Dist. 1984). Thus, the portion of the Teter opinion stating that the failure to obtain a marriage license does not impair an Indiana
marriage is no longer applicable. Charles G. O~ ~, RA V (K~) to ARC Programs-Region
However, the portion of the Teter opinion holding that the failure to secure a proper record of the marriage does not
impair the marriage contract appears to remain applicable. Although we have not found
any post-Teter Indiana decision addressing the issue, all cases we have found from other jurisdictions
have held that the failure to record a marriage license does not effect the validity
of the marriage. State v. Walker, 36 Kan. 297, 13 P. 279 (1887); Re Love, 42 Okla. 478, 142 P. 305 (1914); Kriznan v. Industrial Accident Commissioner, 14 Cal. App. 2d 419, 58 P.2d 405 (1936I; Madison v. Lewis, 151 Pa. Super. 138, 30 A.2d 357 (1943); In re Campbell's Estate, 260 WIS.625, 51 N.W.2d 709 (1952); In re Liberman's Estate, 162 N.Y.S.2d 62 (1957). The registration or recording of a marriage is not essential
to its validity because such provisions are addressed to the officials issuing the
license, certifying the marriage and making proper return and registration or recording,
rather than to the parties to the marriage. 52 Am. Jur. 2d Marriage §41 (1970).
Accordingly, we conclude that the failure of the minister to file the duplicate marriage
certificate for recording did not render claimant's October 29, 1983 marriage void.