What are the Legal Repercussions for not Indicating a Previous Divorce on a Marriage License?

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“What is the legal penalty for not disclosing a previous divorce on a new marriage license? I was in a quick marriage when I was 18 and we quickly divorced never even living together as a couple. It was a young, impulsive act. My fiancee knows about this part of my past but my parents don’t and I would rather not have to explain this all to them on my joyous day. I keep hearing that it’s against the law to not put this on the marriage license but what is the actual penalty? Are we talking a small fine or jail time? Besides how would they ever find out, who would care enough to go searching for this? I am now 36 and getting married in Washington, DC later this year. I was married in Illinois.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

So long as your divorce was properly finalized, and so long as your fiancee is truly aware of the previous marriage and divorce, the odds of it coming back to bite you are probably fairly small – in large part the reasons for having to disclose previous marriages and divorces are a) to ensure that you truly were divorced, and therefore not committing bigamy, and b) to make sure that your spouse-to-be is aware of the previous marriage and divorce. The latter is important for reasons which are also related to other reasons for the disclosure requirement – namely that in some states a previous spouse may have some claim to certain benefits and assets belonging to you (such as pensions, real property purchased during the prior marriage or with assets which were fruits of the prior marriage, etc..).

To be safe, however, you should call the county clerk’s office in your state and county, and ask them what the penalties are for failing to disclose a prior marriage on the license application.

By the way, the prior marriage is listed on the application for the license, not on the license itself, in most states, so you may want to confirm that with the county clerk’s office as well, as you may be worrying over this unnecessarily.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.