We provide you with this consumer alert information as a public service, since we believe ethical choices ultimately benefit all people in our society. MARRIAGETOGO CONSUMER ALERT: MARRIAGES BY PHONE (updated 09/2013)
Information (and the ability to verify it) gives you the power to do the right thing for your situation, protect yourself and your loved ones, and prevent others from being deceived. We hope you find this webpage helpful and we wish you good luck, whatever your situation may be.
California Family Code 420(b) permits "marriage by proxy" for military personnel IN ACTIVE WAR ZONES ONLY. The enlisted person must complete and have notarized a statement of identity that must be presented to County authorities before a marriage license can be obtained. Same-sex couples now also qualify for this option in California; please see this CA Department of Public Health webpage for more information.
ALL PHONE MARRIAGES AND ALL NON-MILITARY PROXY MARRIAGES ARE ILLEGAL IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.
Unfortunately, MarriageToGo cannot assist you with a proxy marriage; please contact your local County Clerk's office to obtain forms and instructions if you believe you qualify. Please call the Marriage License Division of the County Clerk's office at 562.462.2137 if you have questions or would like to inquire about proxy marriage procedures. You can read the text of the California state law allowing military proxy weddings by clicking here.
There are states that permit proxy marriage: Texas, Colorado, and Montana (Montana amended its State Code in 2007 and now requires that one party to a proxy marriage must either be a member of the armed forces of the United States on federal active duty, or a resident of Montana at the time of application for the license.) Each proxy marriage state has different requirements as far as identification, health testing, residency, and waiting periods. Also, a double proxy marriage may not be recognized by some governments or government agencies, so please research carefully before you proceed. You can click here for more information about states that allow proxy marriages.
We often receive complaints that certain wedding chapels in the Los Angeles area are offering cash-only marriages over the phone for military or incarcerated persons. WEDDINGS CONDUCTED OVER THE PHONE ARE STRICTLY ILLEGAL IN CALIFORNIA, ARE NOT LEGALLY BINDING, AND THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS LAW (please see above concerning proxy marriage for military personnel in active war zones). Marriages that are fraudulently performed may be declared invalid by the State.
MARRIAGE FOR THE INCARCERATED/IN CUSTODY
According to notary guidelines issued by L.A. County in March 2007, NOTARIES AND WEDDING CHAPELS MAY NOT ISSUE MARRIAGE LICENSES TO THE INCARCERATED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. WEDDINGS CONDUCTED OVER THE PHONE ARE ILLEGAL IN CALIFORNIA AND ARE NOT LEGALLY BINDING. Please do not be taken in by the uninformed or unethical business practices of notaries and wedding chapels that are putting your legal marriage status at risk for their own financial gain.
There are authorized County procedures for obtaining a marriage license and ceremony for someone who is in law enforcement custody; please contact The Birth, Death, and Marriage Records Division of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk at 562.462.2137 to obtain an "Inability to Appear" packet to begin the process, or to ask questions about the requirements. There are multiple steps to this process, but it is the ONLY way your marriage will be legally valid. You can also try emailing the County Clerk for more info here.
In order for a legal marriage to take place anywhere in California:
THE BRIDE, GROOM AND OFFICIANT MUST PERSONALLY AND PHYSICALLY APPEAR IN THE SAME ROOM AT THE SAME TIME,
THEY MUST EACH PRESENT A VALID UNEXPIRED STATE-ISSUED IDENTIFICATION OR PASSPORT TO THE PERSON ISSUING AND NOTARIZING THE LICENSE AND/OR THE PERSON PERFORMING THE CEREMONY, AND
BOTH BRIDE AND GROOM MUST SIGN THE LICENSE AND NOTARY JOURNAL IN PERSON THEMSELVES UNDER OATH BEFORE THE ISSUING NOTARY (NOT AN ATTORNEY OR A NOTARY WHO IS NOT NAMED ON THE LICENSE.)
MARRIAGETOGO CONSUMER ALERT: THE NOTARY SWITCHEROO
If you get your marriage license anywhere other than the County Clerk's office, here's another scam to watch out for:
Does the notary issuing your license have a County authorization to do so, and does his or her name match the name on the notary stamp on your marriage license?
Los Angeles County requires notaries who issue marriage licenses to renew their authorizations every year. Authorizations are not transferable, so the name of the authorized notary and the name on the notary stamp used on your marriage license should match. You can call County Clerk's office at 562.462.2137 to verify that a notary is authorized if you are unsure.
Also, the notary who issues the license MUST BE PRESENT FOR THE NOTARIZATION. This is true for notarization of any document in California. It's against the law to use someone else's stamp to perform a notarization, nor does the County permit a notary to issue a marriage license that has been stamped by another notary. Be sure the person issuing your marriage license is an L.A. County-authorized notary and that they are the same person whose name appears on your documents! You have the right to ask questions and be satisfied that everything concerning your marriage is above-board.
Remember: California state law requires that document signers requesting a notarization personally appear before a notary public, and that the signers must sign the document in the presence of that notary public. You've done your part in filling out the required documents truthfully, so be sure you're appearing before an ethical and authorized notary who's doing the same!
You can read the laws concerning notary marriage licenses here or about notarial requirements in general (including Section 8205, which requires notaries sign documents in their own handwriting) here.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO END WEDDING FRAUD
You can help reduce the incidence of document fraud in California by immediately reporting notarial irregularites to The L.A. County Recorder's Office and The Notary Division of the California Secretary of State.
If you'd like to report an illegal marriage licensing operation for incarcerated persons or any other marriage scam, you can also contact the Consumer Protection Unit/Financial Crimes Section of City Attorney Mike Feuer's office at 213.485.3795 and/or The Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs at 800.593.8222.
We also encourage you to take a moment to file an online complaint with the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs to help reduce wedding fraud. Remember, scammers will keep taking advantage of innocent victims unless we consumers put a stop to them.
The validity of a marriage license that is obtained outside of County authorized procedures can be challenged by private parties, law enforcement, or state agencies. There are lots of criminal hucksters out there who'll offer to do your phone or internet wedding for ready cash; they'll probably be long gone if you get in trouble down the line. Is it worth the hassle if you get caught? Think carefully before you take a risk with the legal status of your marriage.
Scammers are clever and adapt their operations to avoid law enforcement detection. With correct information, you have the power to not only protect yourself, but to help prevent others from being deceived.
We provide you with this information as a public service since we believe ethical choices ultimately benefit all people in our society. We trust that with the right information, you'll have the tools to do the right thing for you.
If you have further questions concerning marriage licensing, please email MarriageToGo or contact the The Birth, Death, and Marriage Records Division of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk for more details.
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