Over the years, I have had clients who have had questions about the ‘way’ they were married and whether the fact that there were technical failures in their ceremony actually made them not married. I am old enough to refer to the Flintstones episode wherein Wilma and Fred discover that their minister was not authorized to marry them. Hilarity ensues when Wilma then treats herself as a single gal, despite years of marriage.
Minnesota Statutes have been on top of this for years. Minnesota Statute Section 517.16 states:
A civil marriage solemnized before a person professing to be lawfully authorized to do so shall not be adjudged to be void, nor shall its validity be in any way affected, on account of a want of jurisdiction or authority in the supposed officer or person, if the civil marriage is consummated with the full belief on the part of the persons so married, or either of them, that they have been lawfully joined in civil marriage.
This does not let unauthorized persons performing the ceremony off the hook; they are guilty of a misdemeanor.
Minnesota Statutes Section 518.055 also covers ‘Putative Spouses’-those who live together as spouses in the good faith belief that they are married. Such spouses acquire the same rights as if they had been married during the time the belief that they were married existed.
There is a case knocking around the Hennepin County Court system involving a woman claiming she was a ‘putative spouse’ and asking for permanent spousal maintenance. Her (already married) boyfriend went through a marriage ceremony with her as a romantic gesture.