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Issues

Getting Married

Who can legally marry?
You can enter into a marriage in Illinois if you are a same-sex or different-sex couple. You and your partner must both be at least 18 years old and neither of you can already be in a marriage, a civil union (see below regarding converting your civil union into a marriage), or a substantially similar legal relationship. Illinois also does not allow marriages between close relatives (e.g., parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, brother, sister, child, or grandchild).

Do we need to get a marriage license?
Yes. To obtain a marriage license, you must submit an application to a county clerk’s office. You may submit the application to any county clerk’s office in the state. A license is valid only in the county where it was issued and thus must be performed and certified in that county.

The application requests information about you and your spouse such as your name, sex, occupation, address, social security number, date and place of birth of each party to the proposed marriage, and name and address of the parents or guardian of each party. You must also provide information regarding whether the parties are related to each other and, if so, their relationship. Finally, if you or your partner were previously married or in a civil union or substantially similar legal relationship, you must provide the name, date, place, and court in which the marriage, civil union, or other legal relationship was dissolved or declared invalid or the date and place of the former spouse or partner’s death.

You may also need to provide proof to the county clerk that you and your partner are not prohibited from entering into a marriage. Illinois prohibits you from entering into a marriage if you or your partner is under 18 years old. Proof of your age may include your birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, or an employment certificate. You are also prohibited from entering into a marriage if you or your partner is already married or in a civil union or substantially similar legal union that has not been dissolved. Proof that your prior marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship has been dissolved may include a certified copy of your divorce or dissolution decree. If your prior spouse or partner died, you may be asked to provide a certified copy of his or her death certificate. You may also be prohibited from entering into a marriage if you and your partner are too closely related to each other.

Once you and your partner have submitted the application, the filing fee (described below), and any required proof that you are not prohibited from entering into a marriage, the county clerk will issue you a marriage license.

Where do we get a marriage license? How much does it cost?
Licenses are issued by a county clerk. The license becomes valid in the county where it was issued the day after it is issued and is valid for 60 days. During that time, you must have the marriage certified in that county by an authorized person or the license becomes invalid. Once you have the marriage certified, it becomes and will remain valid until it is dissolved. The cost of a license varies by county.

To find your county clerk’s office, please visit this state of Illinois site HERE. (Be sure to look for the county listing and not another government agency.)

Do we both need to be present at the county clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license?
Yes. Both you and your partner must appear at the county clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license. You must each present proof of your identity, such as a current driver’s license or state-issued photo identification. Additionally, both you and your partner must sign the application in the presence of the county clerk’s staff. A representative cannot sign on one or both of your behalves, even if you have a power of attorney or notarized affidavit giving the representative authority to sign the application for you or your partner.

Can a county clerk refuse to issue a marriage license because he or she objects to our relationship?
No. County clerks are required to fulfill the duties of their positions as prescribed by Illinois statute, and one of their duties is to issue marriage licenses to eligible couples.

Can I get married in Illinois if I am a resident of another state?
Yes. The law allows an out-of-state couple to marry in Illinois unless the couple lives in, and intends to continue living in, a state that declares marriages of same-sex couples “void.” Not all states that preclude lesbian and gay couples from marrying have laws declaring such marriages to be “void.”
If you live outside of Illinois, the clerk may ask you to sign an affidavit stating that your home state does not declare your marriage void.

Can we enter into a marriage if either of us has been married or in a civil union before?
Illinois law prohibits you from entering into a marriage if you or your partner are currently married or in a civil union or substantially similar legal relationship unless you are converting your civil union into a marriage (see “Converting a Civil Union” section below). To enter into marriage with your same-sex partner, your prior marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship must either be dissolved, or your previous spouse or civil union partner must have died.

What do we do with our marriage license?
You must deliver the license to the person (referred to as an officiant) who will perform your marriage during the period of license validity. After the ceremony, the officiant will complete the date, place, and officiant information and will sign your license. You or the officiant must return the license to the county clerk’s office where it was issued within 10 days of the ceremony/certification so that it can be officially registered by the clerk. The certificate is not a complete legal document until it has been recorded in the county clerk’s office where it was issued.

Who can perform my marriage?
A marriage may be performed by a judge of a court of record, a retired judge of a court of record, a judge of the Court of Claims, a county clerk in counties having 2,000,000 or more inhabitants (Cook County), a public official whose duties include solemnization of marriages, or with an officiant in good standing with his or her religious denomination.

Does a church, religious denomination, or clergy member have to solemnize my marriage?
No. A church, religious denomination, or clergy member is free to decide which marriages to solemnize, and your marriage need not be solemnized by a clergy member in order to be valid.

Do we need to have a religious ceremony in order to marry?
No. Illinois does not require a religious ceremony to enter into a marriage. Your marriage may be certified by a religious official in good standing, but can also be certified by a non-religious officiant such as a judge or retired judge of a court of record, a judge of the Court of Claims, a county clerk in a county having 2,000,000 or more residents (Cook County), or a public official whose powers include solemnization of marriage.

If my partner and I had a ceremony (religious or otherwise), but have not entered into a legal relationship in any state, do we need to get married?
If you want the legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits extended to spouses under Illinois law, you must enter into a marriage by obtaining a license and having it certified and filed with the state of Illinois.