ILNews

Court rules on out-of-state marriages

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Even if a marriage is questionable in another state, Indiana will recognize that marriage if it complies with Hoosier law.

An Indiana Supreme Court ruling late Tuesday gave that answer in Emma McPeek, et al. v. Charles McCardle, No. 58S01-0708-CV-305, which hails from Ohio Circuit Court and involves a technical issue regarding a couple not having an official out-of-state marriage license when they wed in Ohio, even though they'd had one from Indiana.

The plaintiff-appellants in this case sued following their mother's death in 2004 and contended that a marriage between Edwina VanTyle and Charles McCardle in 1994 was void and that the children were proper owners of one-half the farm that'd been in the family for three generations. VanTyle and McCardle were both Indiana residents and obtained a marriage license in Ohio County, and then went to Ohio for the marriage ceremony. The reverend was authorized to solemnize marriages in that state and completed a marriage certificate from Indiana, but not one for that state. The children alleged the marriage was void since not having a marriage license there violated Ohio law.

The Indiana trial judge granted a motion to dismiss for the husband on grounds that the daughter, Emma McPeek, didn't have standing; the judge concluded the marriage was voidable - not void - by Indiana law. The Court of Appeals affirmed last year and the justices have now done the same, but on a different legal theory.

Relying on caselaw that stretches back more than a half-century, the Supreme Court pointed out that unless strong public policy exceptions require otherwise, the law of a place where a marriage occurs generally determines the validity of a marriage. It found nothing indicating that Ohio marriages without a license violate the state law, though it noted the marriage could be seen as "defective."

Indiana justices were reluctant to rule solely because of what Ohio law says, pointing out that the high court there hasn't addressed this issue in 50 years and its intermediate appellate court last touched on this more than 30 years ago.

Instead, the court relied on Indiana law as the two lived here before and after the marriage ceremony and that both likely anticipated the marriage would be valid.

"We conclude that where, as here, a couple has complied with Indiana's statutory requirements regarding marriage licenses, certificates, and solemnization, such that the marriage would have been valid if solemnized in this state, we will recognize the marriage as valid even if the marriage ceremony took place in another state and didn't comply with that state's law or public policy," Justice Robert Rucker wrote.

Justices were quick to point out that state law already voids a marriage if Indiana residents go to another state to solemnize a marriage with the intent to evade either state's law. The opinion also encourages couples to check the legal requirements when exploring out-of-state marriages, and that those individuals should re-solemnize their marriage in Indiana to avoid future validity questions.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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