Civil Marriage vs Religious Marriage

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Marriage is one of the few aspects of the legal system with an overlap between religion and civil state law.  This creates some confusion.  For example, if you are married in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, do you have a legal marriage in Connecticut?  Short answer: you typically do.

Read on to learn more about civil marriage vs religious marriage.

Who Can Legally Perform a Civil Marriage in CT?

In Connecticut, there is a whole list of people who can legally perform a marriage.  They include:

  • All judges and retired judges (including federal judges and judges from other states)
  • Connecticut family support magistrates, family support referees, state referees and justices of the peace
  • All ordained or licensed members of the clergy (including from other states).

Most people who choose a religious ceremony are also simultaneously entering a legally recognized, civil marriage, because (1) the clergy member marrying them is authorized to perform a legally binding marriage and (2) they have a marriage license, etc.

Civil Marriage Ceremony vs Religious Marriage Ceremony

Under Connecticut law, “all marriages solemnized according to the forms and usages of any religious denomination in this state, including marriages witnessed by a duly constituted Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, are valid. All marriages attempted to be celebrated by any other person are void.”

In other words, whether you have a civil marriage ceremony performed by a judge or justice of the peace, or a religious ceremony performed by a clergy member such as a rabbi, priest, minister, rabbi, mullah, etc., you generally still have a binding, legal marriage under Connecticut law.

Does CT Recognize Marriages Performed in Other States?

Yes.  Connecticut law recognizes marriages or relationships legally performed in other states as long as they:

  • Provide substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage, and
  • Aren’t expressly prohibited in Connecticut.

Does CT Recognize International Marriages?

Generally speaking, Connecticut law recognizes all marriages performed in another country as long as:

  • One or both spouses are Connecticut citizens
  • Both spouses would have legal capacity to enter into the marriage under CT law, and
  • The marriage was celebrated in conformity with the law of that country.

Read: International Divorce and Custody

Civil Marriage vs Religious Marriage

If you meet the above requirements, Connecticut will recognize a religious marriage regardless of whether it was performed in Connecticut, out of state, or even internationally.

Civil Marriage vs Religious Divorce

Religious divorce and civil divorce are very different.  Critically, a religious divorce will not meet the requirements for a legal divorce in Connecticut.  You must go through the state court divorce process.

Next Steps

Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals.  Then, we take those goals along with the facts of your case and analyze them so that our divorce attorneys can present you with recommendations and options on how to move forward.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC