Getting hitched in Alabama will involve a different process starting Aug. 29, when a change of law made during the last legislative session goes into effect.
Etowah County Probate Judge Scott Hassell said it will be easier for couples to get married, because they will not have to get a license beforehand. He said the new law makes marriage a “contractual agreement” between a couple.
Currently, couples have to go to the probate judge’s office, with proof of ID and other paperwork, to get a license that is good for 30 days. After they get the license, they must have a wedding ceremony and are required to remit signed paperwork at the probate office within 30 days after the wedding date.
The new process required couples to:
• Complete a form provided by the state;
• Take the form to a notary to sign and have notarized;
• Deliver the form to the probate office for recording, along with the filing date, within 30 days of the signatures.
“It will be recorded like a deed or a mortgage,” Hassell said.
The legislation was passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriages. Some probate judges in Alabama, in response to that decision, had stopped issuing marriage licenses at all. State Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, the bill’s sponsor, said it “takes the state out of granting permission, saying who can marry or who can’t.”
Hassell told Etowah County commissioners during a work session Tuesday, “It’s a significant change to the way we’ve done things in Alabama for a long time.”
Commissioner Johnny Grant asked if people had an option to do things the traditional way, the way their parents and grandparents did. They don’t, according to Hassell. He said people don’t have to have a wedding ceremony at all after Aug. 29, but they certainly can if they want to.
Hassell said the fee will remain $70, and all the other requirements such as minimum age and not being presently married, have not changed.
The information couples must provide on the affidavit is essentially the same as they had to provide for a license — basic information about each spouse.
The probate office must receive and file the original form, but the Etowah County office will provide a certified copy to the couple for their personal records. The effective date of the marriage is the later of the dates of the signatures of spouses.
Hassell said if a couple gets a marriage license or has gotten one, it will remain good for the 30 days, and will be honored by the state, but after Aug. 29, no licenses will be issued.
As soon as the state completes new revisions, the required form and instructions will be available online. It will available through the Department of Public Health, and there will be a link to that site from the Etowah County webpage, at www.etowahcounty.org.
Hassell said he plans to make the form available at the courthouse for those who don’t have access to the internet otherwise.