April 24, 2012 § 4 Comments

Governor Bryant signed into law SB 2851, which makes some sweeping changes in how one applies for and obtains a marriage license in Mississippi. You can read the new law here for yourself.

The law, which takes effect July 1, 2012, changes much of MCA § 93-1-5. The new law clarifies the age limitations to provide that any male 17 years and older, and any female 15 years and older, may apply for a marriage license, provided that they have parental consent or have an order of a circuit, chancery or county court judge waiving the requirement.

Other changes: the three-day waiting period is eliminated, as is the requirement for a blood test for syphilis. You may not obtain a marriage license if it appears to the circuit clerk that you are intoxicated, or are suffering from mental illness or intellectual disability to the extent that you do not understand the nature and consequences of the application for a marriage license (there’s a lot I could say about this last provision, but I’ll let it go for now).

MCA § 93-1-7 is repealed. That is the section that provided the right of “any interested party” to contest issuance of a marriage license.

The biggest change here, of course, is elimination of the waiting period and blood test. Those two requirements in combination sent many a couple here in east Mississippi scurrying off to Alabama to tie the knot on impulse. Now they have no reason to run off somewhere else.  

What impact will this have on the divorce rate? Too soon to say for sure. My own purely opinionated, unscientific guess is that most marriages that are entered into without much thought and reflection beforehand are marriages that don’t last too long. That being said, I don’t think the three-day waiting period accomplished much in the way of time for thought and reflection anyway. Besides, for couples who are “hotter than a pepper sprout,” like the song says, could hop over the line to Alabama and “get married in a fever” no matter what Mississippi law required. All in all, I think these changes eliminate some requirements that were outmoded in the 21st century and we can do without.

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  • Beau Stewart says:

    Judge, perhaps I’m missing something – a 15-year-old girl may contract for marriage, but a boy must wait until he is 17 (Miss. Code Ann. sec. 93-1-5 reads, “Every male who is at least seventeen (17) years
    old and every female who is at least fifteen (15) years old shall
    be capable in law of contracting marriage)? Why the age distinction; is it the thought that a girl might be expecting at that younger age, thus making a downward departure more acceptable than the alternative?

    What if she becomes great with child by her 15-year-old boyfriend (it has happened)? Takeaway for the young ladies: if you expect to engage in intimacy at a very tender age and hope to be able to marry the father in the event of pregnancy, make sure your boyfriend is two years older than you; but not three years older – different problem.

  • randywallace says:

    I can’t imagine this having much of an impact on divorces here in Mississippi. No matter how easy it is to get married, we will still be close to the top in divorces per 1000 unless there is a fundamental change in beliefs about the sanctity of marriage.

    It does remind me of a client from a few years ago though. It was his 6th divorce and his wife’s 7th. On the way home after the Chancellor signed the judgment, I called my client to tell him he was divorced. There was a considerable amount of noise in the background so I asked him what was going on. His replied that his cousin at the Chancery Clerk’s office had already notified him the divorce was final and he was Tennessee bound to get married to his girlfriend because he didn’t want to wait.

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You are currently reading NEW RULES FOR MARRIAGE at The Better Chancery Practice Blog.


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