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If there was never a marriage, there won't be a divorce

For New York couples preparing the end their union, it may be helpful to take a close look at their wedding photos. Not to take a punishing stroll down memory road, but to remind the parties of who officiated the marriage. Depending on the laws of the state where the couple married, and those of where they will divorce, the credentials of the individual who conducted the ceremony may be very important. 

In most states, members of the clergy are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. Judges and magistrates are also commonly tasked with joining partners in marriage. However, some states have specifically excluded "online ministers" from that role. For couples who allowed a friend or family member to officiate their wedding, that could prove to be a problem. 

Some institutions, such as the Universal Life Church, offer the option to become a minister through a fast and easy online process. No training or demonstration of skill is required, and some of these websites don't even charge a fee. That allows anyone, from a neighbor to a fraternity brother to a distant cousin, to obtain the credentials to perform a marriage. The problem arises years later, when a couple files for divorce and then discovers that their marriage was never valid because their "minister" lacked the proper credentials. 

Some states specifically exclude certain types of "online" ministers, while others simply outline who is authorized to marry couples. If a New York couple married in a state with such rules, and is moving toward divorce, it makes sense to explore the matter to determine the validity of the marriage. No legal union means very different rules in regard to property division and other financial obligations. 

Source:, "Are you sure you're really married? Take a look at who married you", Ron Maxey, March 13, 2018

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Arnel Law Firm

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