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Married in NC by an “online ordained” minister

Discussion in 'Marriage, Engagement, Domestic Partnerships' started by Jason Barnes, Nov 9, 2021.

  1. Jason Barnes

    Jason Barnes Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    North Carolina
    1) I was married in North Carolina in 2016 by my wife’s family friend who says he was ordained 20 years ago “from the back of Rolling Stone” not idea of its ULC or what—never saw documentation. I’ve read that NC does not consider online ordained ministers valid for marriage. If that is the case can I invalidate my marriage versus getting a divorce?

    2) We now live In Washington state, will our prenuptial agreement still be valid in Washington state if it was created/signed with lawyers in NC?

    thank you for your assistance
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    I find just the opposite. In any case, it would likely be simpler and cheaper to simply get divorced.



    There is no way that anyone here can comment on whether or not your prenuptial will be valid. You need to speak to an attorney. I can tell you that simply being in another state doesn't invalidate an otherwise valid prenuptial agreement.

    You're welcome.
     
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  3. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    In the United States, the requirements for entering into marriage are determined by state law. The only U.S. state in which the highest court has recognized the power of a minister of the Universal Life Church to solemnize marriages is Mississippi, although some states allow anyone to solemnize a marriage. Courts in New York, North Carolina, and Virginia have ruled that, under applicable state law, ULC ministers are not authorized to solemnize marriages and a marriage at which a ULC minister officiated therefore is not valid. North Carolina law subsequently was amended to validate marriages performed by ministers of the Universal Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, and marriages solemnized by a ULC minister after that date are voidable, although equitable estoppel may prevent the parties themselves from challenging the marriage. A more recent New York court ruling, from a different appellate court, ruled that it is a factual question whether the ULC is a “church” whose ministers have authority under New York law to solemnize a marriage; on remand, the plaintiff offered no evidence, and the New York Supreme Court, which in New York is a trial court, accepted the defendant’s evidence that the ULC fits the statutory definition of a “church” and the parties’ marriage, performed by one of its authorized ministers, was valid. However, that holding is not binding on other courts. A New York County trial judge stated in 2014 that marriages performed by ULC ministers in New York State are potentially invalid or at the very least in jeopardy. The Supreme Court of Mississippi has ruled that Mississippi has a less restrictive statute and recognizes ULC ministers as able to perform valid marriages in that state. Lower courts in Pennsylvania have split on the issue. In the opinion of the Tennessee Attorney General, persons ordained by the ULC are not qualified under Tennessee law to solemnize a marriage.




    2020 North Carolina General Statutes
    Chapter 51 - Marriage
    Article 1 - General Provisions.
    § 51-1.1 - Certain marriages performed by ministers of Universal Life Church validated.
    Universal Citation: NC Gen Stat § 51-1.1 (2020)
    51-1.1. Certain marriages performed by ministers of Universal Life Church validated.

    Any marriages performed by ministers of the Universal Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, are validated, unless they have been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction, provided that all other requirements of law have been met and the marriages would have been valid if performed by an official authorized by law to perform wedding ceremonies.

    (1981, c. 797.)



    2020 North Carolina General Statutes :: Chapter 51 - Marriage :: Article 1 - General Provisions. :: § 51-1.1 - Certain marriages performed by ministers of Universal Life Church validated.
     
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  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Then you'll need a divorce. WA has no such prohibition for the Universal Life Church.

    RCW 26.04.050
    Who may solemnize.

    The following named officers and persons, active or retired, are hereby authorized to solemnize marriages, to wit: Justices of the supreme court, judges of the court of appeals, judges of the superior courts, supreme court commissioners, court of appeals commissioners, superior court commissioners, judges and commissioners of courts of limited jurisdiction as defined in RCW 3.02.010, judges of tribal courts from a federally recognized tribe, and any regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization.

    And if it turns out that the family friend wasn't really ordained by the ULC, there's this.

    RCW 26.04.060
    Marriage before unauthorized cleric—Effect.

    A marriage solemnized before any person professing to be a minister or a priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization in this state or professing to be an authorized officer thereof, is not void, nor shall the validity thereof be in any way affected on account of any want of power or authority in such person, if such marriage be consummated with a belief on the part of the persons so married, or either of them, that they have been lawfully joined in marriage.

    Looks like your marriage is valid in WA. So, likely, is your pre-nuptial agreement if it would otherwise qualify.

    Consult an attorney and review your options.
     
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  5. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Huh?

    If that's true, then your marriage is already invalid. However, it's not true. Section 51-1(1)(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes provides that a marriage must be "In the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate." Being "online ordained" has nothing to do with it. If the person who performed your marriage is "an ordained minister of any religious denomination" or "a minister authorized by a church," then you're good.

    No one who hasn't read it can comment intelligently on its validity. However, it certainly was not rendered invalid solely by reason of the move.

    The validity of the marriage that took place in North Carolina would be determined by North Carolina law. Washington law is irrelevant in that regard.
     
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  6. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

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    You have to look at the case law on this. NC Courts have determined that these sort of marriages are not void, but perhaps voidable. It has been invalidated in bigamy cases (
    State v. Lynch, 310 NC 479 (1980)) as well as divorce cases ( Duncan v. Duncan, 232 NC App 369 (2014). Pickard v. Pickard, 176 NC App 193 (2006), Hill v. Durrett, 826 SE2d 470 (2019).
     
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  7. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Would you say that Washington's community property laws would also be irrelevant since North Carolina is not a community property state?

    They are residents of WA subject to WA laws which don't appear to prohibit ULC ministers from officiating.

    That's my two cents worth. OP is free to consult an attorney.
     
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  8. Jason Barnes

    Jason Barnes Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you all, this has been really confusing as I assumed the state in which you got married is the state law my divorce would be based on. I have read the same as quoted above that NC does not consider online ordained ministers truly ordained and have voided such marriages--but with living in WA state now I am very confused. Would you suggest I consult a WA state attorney or NC?
     
  9. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Assuming your "prenup" was drafted properly, there would be no reason for you suspect the document to be anything other than lawful.

    If you wish, it certainly wouldn't hurt to discuss your concerns with a couple WA family law attorneys.

    Most attorney will normally provide a prospective client with an initial consultation at no charge or future obligation.

    You could certainly pursue invalidating your marriage in a NC court.

    That would take far longer (probably be more costly) than seeking a DIY divorce in WA state.

    If you and your soon to be former spouse can amicably agree on your pending dissolution, you'll save lots of money, reduce the time required for BOTH of you to break free from the yoke of marriage, saving yourselves from giving your hard, earned loot to attorneys.
     
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  10. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I would not say that. The validity of a marriage depends on the laws of the state where the marriage was allegedly formed, not the law of any state where the couple subsequently moves. The division of assets in a divorce depends on the laws of the state where the divorce occurs.

    That's true but irrelevant because the purported marriage was not formed in Washington.

    No. The state where one purportedly gets married is the state whose laws govern the validity of the marriage. Your divorce, on the other hand, will be primarily governed by the laws of the state where you live at the time of the divorce.

    Again, that a person is "online ordained" has nothing to do with it (and at least one of the cases cited in one of the earlier responses stands for nothing more than that an annulment cannot be granted on summary judgment, which is a procedural issue).

    About what?

    Since you live in Washington, any legal proceeding you might file relating to your marriage will almost certainly be filed in Washington, and you'll need a Washington lawyer for that.

    If you simply want a divorce, which will be based on the premise that your marriage was and is valid, then there'd be no need to involve a North Carolina attorney.

    On the other hand, if you want to take the position that your marriage was invalid from the start, then your Washington attorney may want or need to consult with a North Carolina attorney.

    The question for you is whether you believe it will be advantageous to you to challenge the validity of your marriage. If you do believe that, why?
     
  11. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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  12. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    I suspect the OP doesn't like the terms of the prenup as it relates to what will happen in the event of a divorce. I suspect the OP wants out of the prenup and is grasping at whatever possibilities may exist.

    The OP needs to speak to an attorney.
     
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  13. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    That's what I'm thinking. But if he manages to invalidate the marriage and the pre-nup then all they were for the past 5 years were roommates. If the wealthy wife can prove she paid for everything he may end up with little or nothing anyway.
     
  14. Jason Barnes

    Jason Barnes Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I like the terms of the pre-nup. We own no property, and have separate bank accounts. The issue is we now live in a community property state and she has racked up a lot of credit card debt. The cards are only in her name but I’m concerned with divorcing in WA it will be easier for her to fight the pre-nup and I get stuck with her debt. I have lived simply, worked hard and been financially responsible. I make more than her, but not by a lot. Invalidating the marriage versus divorce seems like it would be easier than her challenging the pre-nup (that she regrets signing).
     
  15. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Why do you believe that her debt would not be assigned to her during a divorce? Was any of the debt used to your benefit in any way?
     
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  16. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Why?

    Does the prenup say that credit card debt incurred on an account on which only one spouse is named as the account holder is the sole responsibility of that spouse?

    So...your answer to my question about "whether you believe it will be advantageous to you to challenge the validity of your marriage" is no. Correct? However, you're concerned that your wife might challenge the validity of the marriage and that such a challenge, if successful, would have the effect of also invalidating your prenup. Also correct?

    If you think your marriage is heading for divorce, then you ought to be consulting with a local family law attorney, and you can discuss these things, but I very much doubt that invalidating your marriage would also invalidate the prenup.
     
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