§ 10.04 FORMATION OF THE MARITAL RELATIONSHIP

JurisdictionWashington

§ 10.04 FORMATION OF THE MARITAL RELATIONSHIP

[1] Statutory Requirements

Washington's statute includes various requirements to form the marital relationship, such as licensing and solemnization. Those wishing to marry must procure a marriage license from a county auditor. RCW 26.04.140. The marriage must be solemnized, either by civil or religious authorities. Active or retired judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, superior courts, and courts of limited jurisdiction as defined in RCW 3.02.010; commissioners of the superior and appellate courts; and, tribal court judges of federally recognized tribes may solemnize marriages.

Marriages may also be solemnized by religious means, defined broadly to include regularly licensed or ordained ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, "or similar official of any religious organization." RCW 26.04.050. The statute also provides for solemnization by religious ritual, such as might be performed in non-hierarchically structured religions (e.g., Quakers, where there is no cleric). RCW 26.04.120; see also In re McLaughlin's Estate, 4 Wash. 570, 589-90, 30 P. 651 (1892) (discussing importance of solemnization).

In addition to the broadly defined category of who may solemnize marriages, RCW 26.04.070 allows solemnization to take any form as long as the parties "assent or declare . . . that they take each other to be spouses" in the presence of an officiant and two witnesses. See, e.g., In re Marriage of Akon, 160 Wn. App. 48, 248 P.3d 94 (2011) (recognizing "valid cultural marriage").

Countries vary in respect of whether they will recognize marriages performed by civil and/or religious ceremonies (e.g., some recognize only civil, some only religious, some, as here, both). In the United States, the broad definition of what constitutes a religious ceremony appears to reflect the proliferation of cultural and religious traditions in the country, as well as constitutionally protected religious rights. See, e.g., O'Neill v. Hubbard, 180 Misc. 214, 40 N.Y.S.2d 202 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1943) (statutory limitation to clergy of religions recognized in census violates state constitution's guaranty of freedom of religious worship, thus permitting solemnization to be performed by minister of The Church of Christ Composed of Disciples); see also Ann L. Estin, Toward a Multicultural Family Law, 38 FAM. L.Q. 501 § I.A.l (2004) (and cases cited therein); Annotation, Validity of Marriage as Affected By Lack of Legal Authority of Person...

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