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Pastors Can Be Subject to Criminal Penalties for Not Complying with Legal Requirements for Valid Marriage under State Law

North Carolina
Key point 3-04. All states permit clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. However, some states permit only "ordained" or some other classification of clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. It is important for clergy to determine if they are legally authorized to perform marriages under applicable state law, and in addition to be aware of the legal qualifications for marriage and any license and reporting requirements prescribed by state law.

A North Carolina court ruled that the failure of a couple to obtain a valid marriage license prior to their wedding will not invalidate the wedding, but may expose the officiating minister to criminal prosecution pursuant to state law. A couple was married in 1993, and divorced in 2007. The couple later reconciled, and the wife moved back into the husband's home in 2012. They attended church every Sunday and established a relationship with their pastor. ...

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  • October 24, 2016