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Validity of Foreign Marriage

Q: My fiancé is the United States citizen (he lives in California). We want to get married in Russia. Will the marriage be valid in the United States?

(Kristina, from Moscow, Russia)

A: Generally, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. If you are planning to live in a state other than California, inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to the attorney general of the state in the United States where you will live.

In California, Family Code section 308 provides that:

  • A marriage contracted outside the State of California that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a marriage between two persons of the same sex contracted outside the State of California that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in California if the marriage was contracted prior to November 5, 2008.
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, two persons of the same sex who contracted a marriage on or after November 5, 2008, that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from the California Constitution, the United States Constitution, statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses with the sole exception of the designation of “marriage.”

More information on the validity of marriage abroad can be found on the website of the U.S. Department of State.

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