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Enlightening Conversation with a Marriage License Bureau
[Author Unknown¡
About 15 years ago, my Iormer wiIe oI 26? years, IiIed Ior divorce. We had seven
(7) chiIdren: Iive (5) daughters and two (2) sons. Our youngest at the time, our
second son, was Iive years oId. At the time, I prepared a countercIaim to the
Petition Ior DissoIution her attorney IiIed in Domestic ReIations (DR) court. I met one
aIternoon with the head oI the Maricopa County Superior Court, Marriage License
Bureau, in downtown Phoenix. The marriage Iicense bureau was headed by a young
woman oI about age 25. I asked her to expIain to me the generaI and statutory
impIications oI the marriage Iicense. She was very cooperative, and caIIed in an
Assistant, a taII BIack man who at the time was working on an Operations ManuaI Ior
internaI departmentaI use.
She deIerred Ior most technicaI expIanations to her Assistant. He waIked through the
technicaIities oI the marriage Iicense as it operates in Arizona. He mentioned that
marriage Iicensing is pretty much the same in the other states -- but there are
diIIerences. One signiIicant diIIerence he mentioned was that Arizona is one oI eight
western states that are Community Property states. The other states are Common Law
States, incIuding Utah, with the exception oI Louisiana which is a NapoIeonic Code
He then expIained some oI the technicaIities oI the marriage Iicense. He said, Iirst
oI aII, the marriage license is Secular Contract between the parties and the State.
The State is the principal party in that SecuIar Contract. The husband and wiIe are
secondary or inferior parties. The SecuIar Contract is a three-way contract between
the 5$.$1, as <'/)3/7.2, and the husband and wiIe as the other two Iegs oI
the Contract.
He said, in the traditionaI sense a marriage is a covenant between the husband and
wiIe and God. But in the SecuIar Contract with the state, reference to God is a
dotted line, and NOT oIIiciaIIy considered incIuded in the SecuIar Contract at all.
He said, iI the husband and wiIe wish to incIude God as a party in their marriage, that
is a "dotted line" they wiII have to add in their own minds. The state's marriage
Iicense is "strictlv secular," he said. He said Iurther, that what he meant by the
reIationship to God being a "dotted line" meant that the State regards any mention oI
God as /''121A.)$, even -1.)/)02144.
In his description oI the marriage Iicense contract, the reIated one other "dotted line."
He said in the traditionaI reIigious context, marriage was a covenant between the
husband and wiIe and God with husband and wiIe joined as one. This is not the case
in the secuIar reaIm oI the state's marriage Iicense contract. The State is the Principal
or dominant party. The husband and wiIe are mereIy contractuaIIy "."&'$!" as
business partners, not in any reIigious union. They may even be considered, he said,
connected to each other by another "dotted line."

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The picture he was trying to "/-&'#" was that oI a triangIe with the State at the top and
a soIid Iine extending Irom the apex, the State, down the IeIt side to the husband, and
a separate soIid Iine extending down the right side to the wiIe, a "dotted line" mereIy
showing that they consider themseIves to have entered into a reIigious union oI some
sort that is irrelevant to the State.
Marriage License Secular Contract Diagram
STATE (primarv partv)
C(5D">E WIFE = (secondarv partv)
(secondarv partv) . GOD
He Iurther mentioned that this "religious overtone" is recognized by the State by
requiring that the marriage must be soIemnized either by a state oIIiciaI or by a
minister oI reIigion that has been "!$/,#&;$!" by the State to perIorm the marriage
ceremony and make a return oI the signed and executed marriage Iicense to the State.
Again, he emphasized that marriage is a strictly secuIar reIationship so Iar as the
State is concerned and because it is Iooked upon as a "privileged business enterprise"
various tax advantages and other poIiticaI priviIeges have become attached to the
marriage Iicense contract that have nothing at all to do with marriage as a reIigious
covenant or bond between God and a man and a woman.
By way oI reIerence, iI you wouId Iike to read a IegaI treatise on marriage, one oI the
best is "Principles of Community Property," by WiIIiam DeIuniak. At the outset,
he expIains that Community Property Iaw descends Irom Roman CiviI Law through
the Spanish Codes, 600 A.D., written by the Spanish juris consuIts. In the civiI Iaw,
the marriage is considered to be a Ior-proIit venture or proIit-making venture
(even though it may never actuaIIy produce a proIit in operation) and as the wiIe goes
out to the IocaI market to purchase Iood stuIIs and other suppIies Ior the marriage
househoId, she is repIenishing the stocks oI the business. To restate: In the civiI Iaw,
the marriage is considered to be a business venture, that is, a Ior-proIit business
venture. Moreover, as chiIdren come into the marriage househoId, the business
venture is considered to have "borne fruit."
Now, back to the expIanation by the Maricopa County Superior Court, Marriage
Bureau's administrative Assistant. He went on to expIain that every contract must
have 2*"-$5(,.'$*". The State oIIers consideration in the Iorm oI the actuaI Iicense
itseII - the piece oI paper, the Certificate of Marriage. The other part oI
consideration by the State is "the privilege to be regulated bv statute."
He added that this priviIege to be reguIated by statute incIudes aII reIated statutes, and
aII court cases as they are ruIed on by the courts, and aII statutes and reguIations into
the Iuture in the years IoIIowing the commencement oI the marriage. He said in a way
the marriage Iicense contract is a dynamic or IIexibIe, ever-changing contract as time
goes aIong - even though the husband and wiIe didn't reaIize that.
My thought on this is can it reaIIy be considered a true contract as one becomes aware
oI the IaiIure by the State to make full disclosure oI the terms and conditions.
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A contract must be entered into knowingIy, inteIIigentIy, intentionaIIy, and with IuIIy
inIormed consent. Otherwise, technicaIIy there is no contract.
Another way to Iook as the marriage Iicense contract with the State is as a contract of
.8%14/&), a contract between two disparate, 4"(<4.# G"/,4$0= Again, a IIawed
"contract." Such a contract with the State is said to be a "specific performance"
contract as to the priviIeges, duties and responsibiIities that attach.
Consideration on the part oI the husband and wiIe is the actuaI Iee paid and the
implied agreement to be subject to the state's statutes, ruIes, and reguIations and aII
court cases ruIed on reIated to marriage Iaw, IamiIy Iaw, chiIdren, and property. He
emphasized that this contractuaI consideration by the bride and groom pIaces them in
a deIinite and deIined-by-Iaw position inferior and 4#JK13$ to the State. He
commented that very Iew peopIe reaIize this.
He aIso said that it is very important to understand that chiIdren born to the marriage
are considered by Iaw as "the contract bearing Iruit" - meaning the chiIdren primarily
beIong to the State, even though the Iaw never comes out and says so in so many
In this regard, chiIdren born to the contract regarded as "the contract bearing fruit,"
he said it is vitaIIy important Ior parents to understand two doctrines that became
estabIished in the United States during the 1930s. The Iirst is the Doctrine of Parens
6.',$.(. The second is the Doctrine of In Loco Parentis.
Parens Patriae means IiteraIIy "the parent of the countrv" or to state it more bIuntIy -
the State is the undiscIosed true parent. AIong this Iine, a 1930s Arizona Supreme
Court case states that parents have no property right in their chiIdren, and have
custody oI their chiIdren during good behavior at the suIIerance oI the State. This
means that parents may raise their chiIdren and maintain custody oI their chiIdren as
Iong as they don't oIIend the State, but iI they in some manner dispIease the State,
the State can step in at any time and exercise its superior status and take custody and
controI oI its chiIdren - the parents are onIy conditional caretakers. |Thus the
Doctrine of In Loco 6.,("'$-=]
He aIso added a Iew more technicaI detaiIs. The marriage license is an ongoing
contractual relationship with the State. TechnicaIIy, the marriage license is a
business license aIIowing the husband and wiIe, in the name oI the marriage, to enter
into contracts with third parties and contract mortgages and debts. They can get car
Ioans, home mortgages, and instaIIment debts in the name oI the marriage because it
is not onIy a secuIar enterprise, but it is Iooked upon by the State as a priviIeged
business enterprise as weII as a Ior- proIit business enterprise. The marriage contract
acquires property through out its existence and over time, it is hoped, increases
in vaIue.
AIso, the marriage contract "bears fruit" by adding chiIdren. II sometime Iater, the
marriage IaiIs, and a "divorce" resuIts the contract continues in existence.
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The "!&<")*$" is mereIy a contractuaI dissoIution or amendment oI the terms and
conditions oI the contract. Jurisdiction oI the State over the marriage, over the
husband and wiIe, now separated, continues and continues over aII aspects oI the
marriage, over maritaI property and over chiIdren brought into the marriage. That is
why IamiIy Iaw and the Domestic ReIations court caIIs "!&<")*$" a dissoIution oI the
marriage because the contract continues in operation but in amended or modiIied
Iorm. He aIso pointed out that the marriage Iicense contract is one of the strongest,
most binding contractual relationships the State has on peopIe.
At the end oI our hour-Iong meeting, I somewhat humorousIy asked iI other peopIe
had come in and asked the questions I was asking? The Assistant repIied that in the
severaI years he had worked there, he was not aware oI anyone eIse asking these
questions. He added that he was very gIad to see someone interested in the IegaI
impIications oI the marriage Iicense and the contractuaI reIationship it creates with
the State. His boss, the young woman Marriage Bureau department head stated,
XYou have to understand that people who come in here to get a marriage license are
in heat. The last thing thev want to know is technical. legal. and statutorv implications
of the marriage license."
I hope this is heIpIuI inIormation to anyone interested in getting more IamiIiar with
the contractuaI impIications oI the marriage Iicense. The marriage Iicense, as we
know it, didn't come into existence untiI aIter the CiviI War and didn't become
standard practice in aII the States untiI aIter 1900, becoming IirmIy estabIished
by 1920. In eIIect, the States or governments appropriated or usurped controI oI
marriages in secuIar Iorm and in the process decIared Common Law appIicabIe to
marriages "-=)"1-#$!."