Process Of Marriage
Marriage and its Registration According to U.S. Law
In the United States of America, the Marriage License Laws are fundamentally the same but they do differ in some aspects from state to state. However, under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U. S. Constitution every state must recognize and honor the validity of a marriage performed in the other states.
To become legally married, both the prospective bride and groom must appear in person at the local city or town Marriage License Bureau or office of the County Clerk and apply for a marriage license. Marriage by proxy – through a third party who attends and acts on behalf of the bride or groom – is not allowed in most states. The couple should plan ahead and submit the application well in advance of the marriage/Nikah date since there may be a waiting period before they can marry.
Some states require a waiting period of one to three days before issuing a license so that the couple may have one last opportunity to fully consider their decision to marry. Other states make the couple wait one to six days after issuing the license until they may legally get married. Many states, however, do not impose any waiting period and one may marry as soon as the application is complete. In most states, the marriage license expires within a predetermined period, ranging from twenty days to one year, and thus it must be used before expiry or else the couple must reapply. Furthermore, the license is only valid within the state which issued it, and sometimes it is limited to a specific county.
In general, U.S. marriage license laws require that both parties should be mentally competent to enter into a contract and should be of legal age, i.e., at least 18 years old, although parents, legal guardians or judges may consent to the marriage of minors in some circumstances. The couple also must show proof of identity, confirm the termination of any earlier marriage(s) by death, divorce or annulment, pay a nominal fee and bring along a witness to co-sign the application.
A few states still require blood tests and proof of immunity or vaccination against certain diseases. Moreover, most states prohibit the marriage between close blood relatives such as first cousins, and some states will not recognize the marriage of cousins even if legally performed in other states. However, as states constantly change and amend marriage license laws, it is prudent to check with the local authorities before applying for a marriage license to verify the current rules, regulations and requirements for that particular state. In case of difficulty or inability to meet requirements in one state, the couple can apply for a license and marry in another state without restriction.
Civil Marriage Ceremony
It is very important to note that in the past, Jama’at Missionaries used to perform the Nikah and sign the valid Marriage License afterwards to legalize the marriage. This is no longer the policy of the U.S. Jama’at as Missionaries now only perform the Nikah. Thus, the couple must arrange for two separate ceremonies: a civil marriage ceremony and a Nikah. The civil marriage ceremony is a simple, non-religious, verbal affirmation that one agrees to “take” or marry another. It is solemnized by one of the individuals authorized by the state to act as a Marriage Officiant, such as a judge, justice of the peace, county commissioner, clerk of the court, etc. The local marriage bureau or county clerk’s office often has a list of these individuals or provides this service for an additional fee. After the civil ceremony, the officiant, both spouses and one or two witnesses as required by the state sign the Marriage License. The couple is now legally married.
Registration of the Marriage
It is the duty of the Marriage Officiant to complete the marriage document and give or send a copy to the local Recorder of Deeds so that the marriage may be properly registered. Although a delay in submitting the document up to one or two months is allowed, the couple should expedite the process since they will need the Marriage Certificate as proof of marriage in order to proceed with a Nikah. Promptly registering the marriage also insures legal status of the married couple, although failure of this step does not nullify the marriage. It only makes proof more difficult.
Hazrat Khaifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) has made premarital cousneling a requisite of the Nikah. The premarital counseling is conducted by premarital counselors from Rishta Nata Department via Skype or other audio/ video platforms, or in-person where possible. The Pre-marital Counseling requests should be submitted at least four weeks before the Nikah through the Rishta Nata website at www.rishtanata.us under "Marital Counseling" tab or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Binding Arbitration Agreement
This agreement is intended to facilitate the timely and proper resolution of issues related to Haq Mahr. When properly executed, this agreement is enforceable in the court of law in the USA. It should only be used when the parties are expected to reside in the USA. Signed copies of the Binding Arbitration Form along with the completed Nikah form should be kept at a safe place both by the prospective husband and wife.
Both the bride and the groom must complete the “Binding Arbitration Agreement” and have this form notarized. A note should be added if one party is outside of the US that the “Binding Arbitration Form” will be completed as soon as both parties are in the US. This note should be signed by the bride and/or groom, whoever is in the US. Make sure that the binding arbitration form is completed as soon as both parties are in the US and submit the completed form to the National Headquarters. Please keep in mind that this is a legal document which needs to be notarized.
Announcement of Nikah
Once the couple is legally married and have an official copy of their Marriage Certificate as proof, the Nikah can be announced. Again, the new policy and practice of the Jama’at is that Missionaries do not sign Marriage Licenses to legalize marriages; they only perform the Nikah. Prior to the Nikah ceremony, the couple should bring all relevant documents and fully completed Nikah forms so that the Missionary may review and approve them, and then announce the marriage.
The Nikah forms can be obtained from the local Presidents or the National Headquarters by calling (301) 879 0110, x325. Alternatively, the Nikah forms can be downloaded from the Rishta Nata website, www.Rishtanata.us. Four forms are to be filled and signed in the original. Important Matters According to Jama’at Policies:
I. In the United States, only Missionaries can announce a Nikah. If a Nikah is to be performed by a person other than a Missionary, permission is required from the National Ameer.
II. If both the bride and bridegroom are members of different Chapters in the USA, then the Missionary can announce the Nikah after the attestation by the respective local Presidents.
III. If one of the two parties resides outside of the country and the other in the USA, then along with the attestation by the local President, attestation by the National Ameer from both countries is also required.
IV. The amont of Haq Mahr should be agreed upon both sides. The amount of dower money (Haq Mahr) must be clealry stated in US Dollars. Otherwise, please specify the currency.
V.What is the waiting period for NEW CONVERTS?
In the case of a male convert to Islam-Ahmadiyyat, a waiting period of one year should be observed before the Nikah can be performed.
In the case of a female convert to Islam-Ahmadiyyat, there is no waiting period.
In the case of the Nikah of a male Ahmadi Muslim to a non-Muslim female, permission must first be obtained from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih (May Allah be his Helper).
Nikah/marriage of a female Ahmadi Muslim to a non-Ahmadi Muslim/non-Muslim is not permitted. (See Promised Messiah (as), Al Hakam Volume 12, No. 27, pg.1-27, Dated April 14th, 1908; Malfuzat vol. 5, pg. 525)
VI. If this is not the first Nikah, a copy of the divorce decree must be attached with the Nikah form.
VII. In case of a decision by the Qadha Board related to previous marriage, verification by the Department of Umoor e Aama of the implementation of the decision is essential before the Nikah can be announced.
VIII. After the Nikah is announced, all the four Nikah forms along with a copy of the Marriage Certificate should be sent to the National Headquarters, Masjid Bait-ur-Rahman where the Nikah will be registered in the Jama’at records. Once registered, the Headquarters retains two copies for records and a copy is sent to the bride and the bridegroom.