My husband and I were married in Montego Bay, Jamaica, at a Sandals resort. Our marriage is valid in the US; however, we are not recognized as a married couple in the state of California. We have proof of our marriage --an official marriage certificate from the parish of St. James, Jamaica. Do we need to proceed in filing a Petition to Establish a Fact of Marriage in our county of residence (Santa Clara County) with the Probate office? Examples are given as to why one would need to establish a fact of marriage (ie you married outside the US and you CANNOT get a certified marriage certificate) as seen at http://www.scscourt.org/self_help/probate/probate_facts.shtml
We are not sure if this applies to us because we do have a certified marriage certificate. Also, we wanted to know, would be a good idea to hire a lawyer in this matter? If so, what area of law would this situation fall under? Probate? We want to be sure that our assets, retirement accounts, and other services available to a married couple in the state of California are not in jeopardy.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Why do you believe that your marriage in Jamaica is not legally recognized in California? As long as you have the certified marriage certificate, California will recognize your marriage as legal in this state. If you are looking to change your name, you simply need to provide the marriage certificate and complete the required forms.
As to the other matters, you are asking about estate planning matters, which I encourage the two of you to investigate. As a married couple, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss what you should do now to protect your assets.
Scott Jordan is correct, as to all stated; however if you believe you may run into problem validating the marriage here in California, I would suggst you contact a family lawyer for that aspect of your legal question to advise you re the validity of your marriage certificate, and whether any further steps need to be taken to validate the certificate in California, for your own comfort. However, I do not forsee any problem with the validity and legal recognition in this state.