Legal Marriage in Minnesota
A “legal” marriage, one that is recognized in Minnesota, is a civil contract between two persons who have each have the ability to consent to the union; this includes civil marriage. This means that each party has to have the capacity to contract! For persons under guardianship, marriage is possible if the guardian consents or if the court appointment does not specifically limit the right to marry. A license is also required in order to have a legally recognized marriage.
To marry, the law requires that the persons be at least 18 years old. A marriage can take place for persons as young as 16 if consented to by the person’s legal custodial parents, guardian or the court. Minnesota prohibits marriages between certain relatives. This includes brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, and first cousins. It does not matter if the relationship is by the whole or half blood or if created by adoption.
Changes in Civil Marriage Laws in Minnesota
In 2013, the statutory definition of marriage was changed to permit marriages by same-sex individuals. In doing so, the legislature removed the prohibition on same-sex marriages. It also required that statutory use of terms like husband, wife and other such terms take a gender-neutral meaning. This statutory change gave the privileges and also the responsibilities and duties of a civil marriage to same–sex married couples. The change also gave recognition to same-sex marriages validly entered into in other states. There is some lingering case law that upholds the prior statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
Who Can Perform a Marriage?
Marriages have to solemnized by persons who have authority to so do: be 21 years old, and hold a position legally licensed to perform marriages. This includes judges, clerks or administrators of court, or licensed or ordained minister. The person performing the marriage must be satisfied that there is no legal impediment to the marriage, such as lack of capacity or it being a void marriage. The persons being married must declare in the presence of the person solemnizing the marriage and two witnesses that they take each other as husband, wife or spouse. They must also meet the requirements of certain religious groups who have different practices. The 2013 same-sex marriage amendments authorize religious organizations to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages and there is no fine or penalty for refusing or failing to perform a same-sex marriage.
Some marriages are voidable. However, a person seeking to annual a civil marriage contract must meet some very narrow and specific rules. For example, an annulment based on lack of capacity to consent must be brought within 90 days after the petitioner obtains knowledge of the condition giving rise to the lack of capacity. As another example, if two underage persons marry an action for annulment must be brought before attaining the age for marriage. If someone does not meet any of the specific requirements for an annulment, a divorce action must be commenced.
Minnesota’s Legal Requirements
Minnesota has an evolving statutory and case-law scheme governing marriages. The foregoing is a snap-shot of the legal requirements for marriage and is not to be used to define any specific situation and is not to be considered as legal advice. If you or someone you know has a specific situation they wish to discuss and obtain advice on how to handle, please contact Kay Snyder, Paul Jeddeloh or Gwen Anderson and the Law Office of Jeddeloh & Snyder, PA for more information!