TN 67 (08-23)

GN 00305.025 Secondary Proof of Ceremonial Marriage

A. Policy

1. Domestic marriage

If none of the preferred proofs of marriage can be obtained, accept secondary proof.

2. Foreign marriage



Preferred proof is not available in the U.S.

Accept secondary proof.

Neither preferred nor secondary proof is available in the U.S.

Attempt to obtain evidence from the foreign country before applying the presumption of a ceremonial marriage. See GN 00312.001 through GN 00312.450

3. Documentation of failure to obtain preferred proof

Before secondary proof of a ceremonial marriage is acceptable, document on MCS the failure to obtain preferred proof.

B. Procedure

1. Development

  1. a. 

    Always include as much information as possible concerning the events surrounding the marriage ceremony.

  2. b. 

    Obtain an SSA-795 from the claimant including the following:

    • a description of the church or place where the ceremony was performed;

    • a description of the person who performed the ceremony;

    • how the parties went to the place of marriage;

    • what the weather was like;

    • who were the witnesses; and

    • any other details that can be remembered.

  3. c. 

    If conflict in evidence or doubt as to the existence of a marriage arises, make every effort to get complete facts.

NOTE: Do not attempt to establish a common-law marriage routinely when a ceremonial marriage is alleged but no record is found.

2. Documentation

Acceptable secondary evidence of a marriage ceremony includes:

  • A signed statement from the clergyman or other official who performed the marriage ceremony;

  • Statements of witnesses to the marriage ceremony;

  • A newspaper account of the wedding;

  • Statements from at least two persons who have knowledge that a ceremony took place. Indicate in the statement the relationship of the person to the parties of the marriage. Get complete details explaining how the person knew of the ceremony.

  • Other evidence of probative value indicating a ceremony had taken place (e.g., photos taken at the ceremony). See GN 00301.050D. for evaluation of souvenir certificates.

NOTE: In general, one piece of secondary evidence is sufficient, in addition to the development in GN 00305.025B.1. However, if the piece of evidence submitted is suspect or otherwise unconvincing, the adjudicator may request another piece of evidence.

3. Evaluating secondary proof

In determining the acceptability of secondary evidence of a ceremonial marriage, consider the following:

  • Statements and conduct of the parties;

  • Length of time the parties have lived together as a married couple; and

  • Whether children were born of the relationship.

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GN 00305.025 - Secondary Proof of Ceremonial Marriage - 08/16/2023
Batch run: 08/16/2023