First of all, a disclaimer: Although I have studied law and am
familiar with the legal process, I am not a lawyer. Even if I were a
lawyer, under the terms of service for Google Answers I could not give
legal advice here. The best I can do is provide you some information
that will be helpful as you attempt to untangle your legal
Ultimately, and it sounds like you have done so already, you will need
to get an attorney involved. It's not clear to me why the Arkansas
attorney you talked to did not research Missouri law. Any attorney
would certainly have the resources available (professional databases,
law libraries and that sort of thing) to do that.
If you're satisfied with the Arkansas attorney you have worked with,
you should ask him/her about researching Missouri law. If not, you
should contact another attorney.
Ideally, you probably will need a lawyer in Carroll County, since
that's where the records of your "marriage" are found. There are at
least three attorneys serving Carroll County who deal with issues of
Thurman & Bishop
McCracken Law Firm
The third firm listed above appears to be licensed in both Arkansas
and Missouri, so that may be helpful. These firms were all listed on
the Lawyers.com site:
Another place to find an attorney is FindLaw:
I will assume here that you are not married under Arkansas law unless
you have a valid marriage in some other state. The attorney would not
have brought up your Missouri situation if that were the case.
The Missouri statutes on marriage can be found here:
Simply search for "marriage" without the quotes. Searching here finds
no provision that a Missouri marriage license can be used for getting
married out of the state. So I would assume, as your attorney
suggested, that you were not properly married under Missouri law.
Although the statutes do provide penalties for fraudulently marrying
(it's a misdemeanor, but my guess would be that the statute of
limitations has expired), they do not explicitly provide that such a
marriage would be automatically invalid. The grounds for annulling a
marriage are that one or both of the parties could not legally consent
(such as by reason of age or duress). By all appearances here,
invalidating a fraudulent marriage would require some sort of court
order, and for that you need an attorney.
So, again, assuming that the Arkansas marriage is not valid, the
question is, do you have a recognized marriage in Missouri?
The answer appears to be no.
You can find Missouri laws on marriage here:
Note that the only way you can get married in Missouri is by obtaining
a legal license in Missouri.
Marriage license required
The next question, then, is, do you have a common-law marriage in
Missouri? In some states, you can become married simply by living
together as if you're married (I'm simplifying things a bit here).
However, Missouri has no common-law marriages:
Marriage license required
IMPORTANT WARNING: Arkansas also does not have common-law marriages.
But if you and your "husband" lived in a state other than Arkansas or
Missouri acting as if you were married, you may have a common-law
marriage in that state. Such a marriage would be recognized in both
Missouri and Arkansas (indeed, in any state). The states were you can
have a common-law marriage are these: Alabama, Colorado, District of
Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah. So if you
lived in any of those states acting as if you were married, you may
indeed be married.
You can find out more about common-law marriage here:
Dymystifying Common-Law Marriage
So, the basic answer to your question is this:
1) By all indications, including the comment of your attorney, you
were not legally married in Arkansas.
2) You haven't been legally married in Missouri because you didn't
obtain a marriage license there and Missouri doesn't provide for
3) Unless you and your husband lived in some other state with
common-law marriages, you are not married anywhere.
That's the good news for you. BUT HERE'S A SECOND IMPORTANT WARNING:
It would be a huge mistake, even if you verify all this information
with an attorney, to not take legal action to have your Arkansas
marriage license formally made null and void. THE PRESUMPTION ANYWHERE
IS THAT A MARRIAGE LICENSE ON FILE IS VALID UNLESS SHOWN OTHERWISE.
You will need to show otherwise to a court of competent jurisdiction.
If you don't have that marriage formally made invalid, you could find
yourself (or your "husband") accused of bigamy if you decide to
remarry, and there could be other legal consequences as well in terms
of taxes, liabilities and property ownership. You might prevail (not
be found guilty) if it ever came to that, but it would be silly to
take that chance.
What you will need to do, then, is contact an attorney who can file
papers in Carroll County. Probably what you will need to do is sign an
affidavit reciting the facts as you have given here, and you may need
to have your "husband" and the minister involved do the same thing.
Those affidavits would then be submitted to a court, probably in
Carroll County but possibly in Little Rock, which could then declare
the marriage license null and void.
My personal advice is please don't ignore the fact that you will be
presumed married unless you can show otherwise. You could find
yourself responsible for debts your "husband" may incur or find other
legal difficulties if you don't take care of this. In the end, you
might win some dispute that hinges on your marital status, but it
would be a lot easier to take care of your marriage status the proper
way. Please contact an Arkansas attorney who can arrange for an
annulment or other invalidation of the marriage. A Missouri attorney
may be able to do this for you also, but ultimately you will probably
need to get some sort of a legal document from Arkansas in any case.
Or, it might be easier (especially if your "husband" agrees) to file
for a divorce/dissolution in Missouri and waive the right to contest
the validity of the marriage license. An Missouri attorney could tell
you if this is an option.
I hope you find this helpful,
Google search terms used:
State statutes found through searches at FindLaw