Daultie M. H~ filed for surviving divorced wife benefits on the account of Troy H~
. She married Troy H~ in 1942, and they were divorced in 1975. The marriage was performed
in Ohio; but the marriage license was issued in West Virginia. You have asked whether
Ohio would recognize this marriage as valid. 1_/ For the following reasons, Ohio would
recognize the H~s' marriage as valid.
The marriage license requirement in Ohio is set forth at Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. §3101.05
(Page). Although this provision details the procedures necessary to obtain a valid
marriage license in Ohio, it is silent as to whether a valid marriage may be performed
in Ohio without a marriage license. Another provision of Ohio domestic relations law,
Ohio Rev. Star. §3101.99(A), states: "Whoever violates section 3101.05 of the Revised
Code shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars." As a general principle of
common law, although we have found no direct authority on the point in Ohio, "[s]ince
marriage is regarded with favor by the law, statutes should not be construed so as
to make a marriage null and void unless the legislative intent is clear and unequivocal."
52 Am. Jur. 2d Marriage §103 at 955 (footnotes omitted). It would appear, then, that
a marriage performed without a license in Ohio could subject the parties to a civil
money penalty but would not be an invalid marriage.
This conclusion is buttressed by another common law principle, recognized in Ohio,
that "a marriage will, if possible, be upheld as valid, and...its validity will be
presumed unless disproved." 52 Am. Jur. 2d Marriage §3 at 867 (footnotes omitted).
Mazzolini v. Mazzolini, 155 N.E.2d 206, 208 (Ohio 1958) the Ohio Supreme Court stated:
The policy of the law is to sustain marriages, where they are not incestuous, polygamous,
shocking to good morals, unalterably opposed to a well defined public policy, or prohibited.
Since a marriage performed without a proper license may not be said to be shocking
or prohibited, it would, we conclude, be valid according to Ohio law.
1_/ It is apparent from the file that at his death Mr. H~ was a domiciliary of the
State of West Virginia. Therefore, in accordance with 20 C.F.R. §404.345, the validity
of the H~ s' marriage would be determined by West Virginia law. According to West
Virginia law, however, a marriage is valid if the state in which it was celebrated
would recognize it as valid. 12B Michie's Jurisprudence, Conflict of Laws §5 (digest
of Virginia and West Virginia law). Consequently, the issue presented by this file
is properly whether the State of Ohio would recognize the H~s' marriage to be valid.