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Family Law in North Carolina – Marriage in North Carolina


Getting married in North Carolina is a fairly straightforward process. Of course, everyone who wants to get married has to make sure that they do so legally. Here is an overview of the basic rules for marriage in this state.

Marriage in North Carolina: Basic Requirements

In order to get married in the state of North Carolina, a person has to be at least 18 years old.   People between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with the consent of a parent or guardian.  A minor who is between 14 and 16 years old can marry if the female is pregnant and wishes to marry the father of the child.  However, in those situations, a court must approve the request.

In order to become legally married in North Carolina, you must first apply for a marriage license, typically found at the county Register of Deeds. Both partners must appear in person to obtain the license, or submit a sworn notarized affidavit if they cannot be there.  Once given the license, you then have 60 days to get married.

A marriage ceremony must be performed by an officiant.  A magistrate judge can perform the wedding, or a member of the clergy can officiate.  After the wedding, the marriage certificate must be returned to the register of deeds to be filed with the State.

Marriage in North Carolina: Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage is, legally speaking, no different from any other type of marriage. Couples married through common law are legally married, and in order to end their marriage, they must seek a divorce or annulment. Only a handful of states recognize the ability of people to get married through common law.  North Carolina does not allow people to create common law marriages here.

Though the legal requirements for common law marriage differ somewhat from state to state, they essentially require that each partner in the relationship be old enough to enter into a marriage, intend to enter into a marriage and hold themselves out to the public as a married couple.

However, even though you cannot get married in North Carolina under common law, entering into a common-law marriage in the state that recognizes such relationships can make you a legally married couple. If you then move to North Carolina, you will remain legally married.

Marriage in North Carolina: Same-Sex Marriages

Within the last month, the courts have overturned North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage.  As of this writing, it is legal for same-sex partners to marry in the same fashion as would a man and a woman.  Prior to this change, North Carolina's state constitution banned gay marriage.  Because this change in the law is so significant and so recent there are still many laws and regulations that have yet to be re-written to accommodate same-sex couples.  This means that many of the rules relating to married couples are in the process of changing.

Because of all these changes on both the state and federal level, same-sex couples in North Carolina may wish to speak to an attorney about their legal options relating to estate planning, children, family law and other issues if they are considering legal marriage or have recently become married.