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North Carolina Marriage Records

North Carolina marriage records are official files and documentation maintained by government organizations that contain information about marriages in the state. A marriage record may include the following information:

  • Details about the spouses (full name, date of birth, address at time of marriage, occupation)
  • Details about the civil ceremony (date and location)
  • Name of officiant

North Carolina marriage records may also contain information on related participants, such as the parents' names and witnesses present during the wedding. North Carolina marriage records are classified as vital and maintained by public entities such as the NC Office of Vital Records. As part of its duties under the Division of Public Health, the Vital Records office maintains marriage records dating to 1962. Multiple laws, including the North Carolina Public Records Act, govern access to such records. They are also considered a part of North Carolina family court records.

What Types of Marriage Records are available in North Carolina

Government agencies maintain different types of marriage records, ranging from marriage bonds issued between 1741 and 1868 to more recent records created during license applications. However, the most common types of records include marriage certificates and licenses.

North Carolina Marriage Certificate:

A North Carolina marriage certificate serves as an official declaration that two people are married. Marriage certificates are created after marriage and remain valid for as long as the marriage exists. Some of the requirements that couples must meet to obtain a marriage certificate include:

  • Secure a wedding license
  • Schedule a wedding ceremony
  • Have the ceremony led by a recognized officiant such as a judge, magistrate, or minister.

North Carolina Marriage License:

A North Carolina marriage license is an official document issued by the County Register of Deeds Office granting the named parties the right to marry. Marriage licenses are issued before a wedding and remain valid for at least 60 days. Both parties must be old enough to marry (at least 18 without parental consent) to obtain a marriage license. Applicants must also be physically present and pay the fee. 

Are North Carolina Marriage Records Public?

North Carolina marriage records fall under the umbrella of public records. Unlike some US states, North Carolina does not place any restrictions on accessing vital records, such as marriage, birth, or death records. The state also has no waiting period. Such records become public as soon as they are created. Anyone can obtain record copies by submitting a request to the record custodian. Depending on where the marriage occurred, this may be the Country Register of Deeds Office or the local Vital Records Office.

How to Find Marriage Records in North Carolina

Finding marriage records in North Carolina is a relatively straightforward process. Persons interested in obtaining such records can follow several general steps.

Step 1. Identify the Year the Marriage Occurred

Public marriage records date back to the mid-1700s. Depending on when a couple married, marriage records may be maintained by the NC Vital Records office, the county Register of Deeds, or the State Archives of NC. Generally, records of marriages that occured over a hundred years ago will likely be maintained by the State Archives, while records filed in the last 100 years can be found with the county Register of Deeds. Although the NC Vital Records office maintains marriage records, the earliest filed entry begins in 1962.

Step 2. Collect Related Information 

As part of the application process for obtaining marriage records, requesters must provide some details associated with the record. Some of these include:

  • The full name of the groom and bride 
  • Last name before first marriage (if applicable)
  • Date and county of marriage

If you wish to obtain certified copies of a record, you'll need to provide additional documents to assert your entitlement. Under North Carolina laws, certified records can only be obtained by direct family relatives, such as spouses, parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, siblings, or grandparents.

Step 3. Submit the Application and pay the fee

Government agencies provide flexible options for obtaining records. For instance, the North Carolina Division of Public Health provides options for online, in-person, and mail requests. However, the processing time for each option varies. While online and in-person requests may take only a few days, mail requests may take a week or longer. Applications are only processed after the requester pays the fee.  The state vital records office charges $24 for the first certified copy and $15 for every additional copy made with the same request. 

How to Get a Marriage License in North Carolina

A marriage license is an essential first step to getting married in North Carolina. Generally, anyone can obtain a license by meeting key requirements and following a few general steps.

Step 1. Meeting State Eligibility Rules

Both applicants must be old enough to marry to obtain a marriage license. While applicants 18 years and above can marry without parental consent, persons between 16 and 17 must provide parental consent. In addition, both parties must have no direct relations and indicate their willingness to marry.

Note: Individuals between 14 and 15 may obtain a license only with a court order.

Step 2. Collect Necessary Documents and Information

To obtain a marriage license, both parties must complete an application form and provide their full names, gender, date of birth, and race. Some of the other items required for a marriage license application include:

  • Details of marital status (number of marriages)
  • Full name of both parents 
  • Proof of social security or a TIN number
  • Highest grade completed
  • An affidavit is an applicant has not been issued a social security number
  • A valid ID, such as a certified birth record
  • Applicants in a previous marriage must present a divorce decree confirming their marriage eligibility.

Step 3. Submit Application 

The County Register of Deeds processes marriage license applications. While some counties require that both parties schedule appointments, others, such as the Wake County Register of Deeds, allow walk-in applications. Most counties require both parties to be present to obtain a license. Applicants will also be expected to pay the applicable fee. Once issued, a marriage license remains valid for 60 days, during which the couple must have a wedding ceremony performed by a recognized officiant. 

Who can obtain Marriage Records in North Carolina?

Anyone can obtain uncertified copies of marriage records in North Carolina. However, to get a record, applicants must provide related information, such as the marriage date and where the license was issued. In contrast, North Carolina laws restrict who may obtain certified copies of a marriage record.

Under North Carolina law NCGS 130A-93(c), certified marriage records can only be issued to the following persons:

  • Spouses named on the certificate 
  • Direct family relations, such as siblings, parents, children, step-parents, or step-children
  • An attorney or anyone legally authorized to represent any of the above

Can You Lookup Online Marriage Records For Free in North Carolina

You can look at public marriage records online, depending on when and where the records were filed. For instance, several marriage indexes provide access to various marriage bonds, certificates, registers, and cohabitation bonds created between 1741 and 2011. Several North Carolina County Register of Deeds offices also provide marriage records online. Third-party platforms may also provide a solution. Unaffiliated with the North Carolina government, such sites provide access to a wide selection of public records collated from different cities and counties across the state. However, the accuracy of the record results on such platforms may vary. 

Is North Carolina a Common Law State for Marriage?

North Carolina does not recognize common-law marriages. To be married in North Carolina, both parties must get a license and have a ceremony in the presence of a recognized officiant. That said, in accordance with the full faith and credit clause, North Carolina recognizes the validity of common-law marriages established in states that allow this union. If a couple enters a common law marriage in another state and relocates to North Carolina, the marriage is considered valid.

Common law marriages refer to informal civil unions where two people are considered to be legally married, even though they did not obtain a license or have a marriage ceremony. Such unions are fully or partially recognized in several states, including Colorado, Iowa, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Some of the general requirements include:

  • Couples must be cohabiting for a fixed period 
  • Both parties must have the legal right to marry (be old enough and unrelated to each other)
  • Both couples must hold themselves out as married to family, friends, and the general public

Although North Carolina does not recognize common-law marriages, unmarried couples who wish to assert some rights and responsibilities without getting married may use cohabitation agreements. The court recognizes such contracts when used to define health decisions, property rights, debt payments, or asset dispersals, among other options.

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