What Is Proxy Marriage, and Is It Allowed in California?
Marriage requires more than the decision of two people to marry. Certain legal formalities must be followed, including that the parties declare their intent to marry before a person “solemnizing” the marriage as well as necessary witnesses. Under most circumstances, the parties must be present, together, to officially solemnize their marriage. What happens when the parties cannot appear together in the same place? Can they still get married? Below, we discuss the concept of “proxy marriage” and how it works in California. If you have questions about proxy marriages or other family law matters in Southern California, call a knowledgeable Claremont family law attorney at Blasser Law.
What Is a Proxy Marriage?
Under most circumstances, both parties to a marriage will be physically present. If the couple cannot be in the same room, however, because one party is overseas, incarcerated, incapacitated, or for some other reason cannot travel to the location of the other party, some states allow for what is known as a “proxy marriage.”
A proxy marriage involves one party designating a third party to be their “proxy,” or stand-in, for the official marriage ceremony. That party will say the appropriate words and sign the marriage certificate on behalf of the party who could not be physically present. Proxy marriages are only recognized in a few states, and the rules around proxy marriages are very strict.
Proxy Marriages in California
Proxy marriages are not, for the most part, recognized in California. Family Code section 420 explicitly states that the parties to a marriage must “declare, in the presence of the person solemnizing the marriage and necessary witnesses, that they take each other as spouses.” There’s little room for ambiguity in the statute; not much is required for a valid California marriage ceremony, but physical presence is one of those things.
The Family Code provides for one limited set of circumstances under which proxy marriage is allowed: military weddings. If one party to the marriage is a member of the Armed Forces, currently stationed overseas, serving in an armed conflict, and is unable to appear for the marriage ceremony as a result, then that party can appoint someone else to be their proxy by way of a power of attorney.
Appointing a power of attorney allows a person to designate someone else to make important legal decisions on their behalf. Certain legal formalities are required to designate a power of attorney, and the specific powers of the designated person must be delineated. If you intend to have someone stand in as your proxy for your wedding, you’ll need help from a lawyer or other qualified professional to legally establish a power of attorney.
In light of events like the COVID-19 pandemic, California does allow for some non-traditional settings for marriage ceremonies. Couples can be married by an officiant through a virtual ceremony, meaning a ceremony in which the officiant is in another location and the parties are communicating by video call. The couple must still be in the same room as one another, and they must be physically located within the State of California, but the officiant can be in another location. Certain additional procedural rules must be followed as well.
Call a seasoned California family law attorney at Blasser Law for assistance with a proxy marriage or other family law matters including abandonment, divorce, child custody, property division, child support, or alimony. The seasoned Claremont family law legal team at Blasser Law is ready to assist clients with any family law concerns in the San Gabriel Valley or Los Angeles County. Contact our family law office at 877-927-2181.