I, Patricia, take you, Patrick, to be my lawfully wedded husband…
While Christian marriage is a spiritual event, to be legally married according to Florida state laws, you must follow Florida Statutes Chapter 741.
Accordingly, you must apply for and get a license to marry at the courthouse, documenting your identity and paying a fee which will be discounted if you can prove you took a recognized 4-hour premarital course.
Your marriage must be officiated by an authorized agent of the state like a pastor or notary public. After your wedding, your officiator and two witnesses must sign your license. You have 60 days from issuance to return it to the courthouse to be recorded.
You must be 18 or have parental consent or extenuating circumstances.
You cannot marry a sibling, a parent’s sibling or their children.
You must have obtained or accessed information in Florida’s Marriage Handbook.
Common law states may not require licenses. You may be legally married if you do certain things, such as tell people you’re married, live together or have children together.
Why lawfully married?
What does the law have to do with God’s mystical joining of a man and woman? Simple — if we always did the right thing, we would not need the law, judges — or Jesus, for that matter. But because we are sinners, we mess up every good gift God gave us including the gift of marriage. Through Moses and Jethro, God set up the law and a system of judges.
If you break your vows through divorce, the law appoints a referee to determine what happens to your kids and stuff. He may also decided if there is any support needed to remediate the brokenness.
In many respects, Florida law recognizes your “oneness” and gives you rights accordingly. Whatever you own can be titled “by the entireties.” This is only available to married couples. It means that each of you individually own 100 percent of your stuff. While mathematically impossible, this doctrine recognizes the uniqueness of marriage in God’s economy.
Unless otherwise documented in an agreement upon marriage, your spouse automatically becomes your medical surrogate and the recipient of your estate upon death. Your tax filing status changes, and you become eligible to receive a portion of your spouse’s social security benefits.
Have you considered the legal implications?
Ultimately, by applying for and obtaining a license and getting lawfully married, you are agreeing to submit to the laws of the State of Florida as it relates to your marriage. While some laws support God’s plan for marriage, others may interfere with your ability to honor God especially as they relate to divorce.
Florida is a “no fault” state, which means that you do not need “grounds” for divorce. So, while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to divorce. You cannot stop your spouse from divorcing you. The results of divorce are far-reaching and especially devastating to children.
Suppose you verbally agree to raise your kids in the church. However, a traumatic life event causes your spouse to lose his or her spiritual way, and he or she divorces you. Because your spouse now rejects God, he or she may petition the court to prohibit you from taking the kids to that “fanatical fundamentalist” church to be “brainwashed.” This happens.
What should you do?
The answer may lie in some very careful and purposeful premarital planning (or postnuptial planning if you are already married). Local Christian attorney, Glenn Curran, suggested, “When a Christian lives in a land that has laws that are, or may become, contrary to Scripture, and when that Christian is allowed to avoid those laws in favor of scriptural laws and precepts by merely writing them down and signing them, does that Christian not have a duty to do so?
God calls us to be prepared for spiritual battles. This includes understanding the law and its implications for your marriage. Have you counted the costs and properly prepared?
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you” (Luke 14:28-29).
Before you marry
1. Read Florida Statutes Chapter 741, followed by Chapter 61.
2. Consider what God expects for your marriage.
4. Consult wise legal counsel.
5. Write a God-honoring agreement incorporating God’s plan for marriage.
Remember: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”– C.T. Studd
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. www.khwcpa.com. She is also author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com. Twitter @CPrenuptial.