marriage couple

Back to the Basics, Part 1: Marriage

As we only have a few months left in this year, I thought I would get back to basics and give an overview of Arkansas family law. I will go through the entire process from marriage requirements to child custody over the next few weeks. It is easy to get swept up in all the details, but in order to accomplish the details; we must understand the general basis of which the details are derived. This week I will start with the basics of getting married in Arkansas.

Arkansas law states that every male at least age 17 and every female at a minimum is age 16 are capable of legally contracting a marriage. However, both males and females under the age of 18 must furnish the court clerk with satisfactory evidence of the parent or parents or guardian of each consent before a marriage license will be issued. This means that both parents must consent to the marriage. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule:

  • If the parents are divorced and custody has been awarded to one of the parents, then consent is only required from the custodial parent, or
  • If the custody of the child has been surrendered through abandonment or desertion by one parent, only the custodial parent’s consent is required.

The court reserves the right to void the parental consent if there is evidence to prove the parent is not fit to make decisions concerning the child and the marriage is not in the best interest of the child.

Arkansas law requires a five business day waiting period for any marriage license issued to those parties under 18.

For all individuals of age, a marriage license must be obtained from the county court clerk. Both parties must appear in person before an Arkansas county clerk with photo identifications. The marriage must be performed within 60 days before the license expires and returned to the clerk; however, failure to file the marriage license does not render a marriage void. Those that can solemnize the marriage (officially and legally marry the couple) are:

  • The Governor
  • Any former justice of the Supreme Court
  • Any judge within the state, including former judges that have served at least four years or more
  • Any justice of the peace, including former justice of the peace who served at least two terms since the passage of Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 55.
  • Any regularly ordained minister or priest for any religious sect or denomination
  • The mayor or any city or town
  • Any official appointed for that purpose by the quorum court of the county where the marriage is to take place
  • Any elected district court judge and any former municipal or district court judge who served at least four years
  • The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) through their traditional rites

Arkansas law does not require a medical or blood test or proof of residency in the state. With the exception to the five day waiting period for minors, there is no required waiting period and the license can be used anywhere within the state.

Check out my past blog for more details about the three types of marriage in Arkansas: “regular”, covenant and common law. 

Unfortunately, not all marriages last. In fact, roughly 40% to 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Next week I will go over the basics of divorce laws in Arkansas. Kevin Hickey Law Partners is here for you from answering questions about the basics to helping you navigate complex laws governing your unique case. My experience and expertise will aid in building the best case for you to assist in receiving the best outcome while treating you with the sensitivity and care you deserve.