Under O.C.G.A. § 19-3-1, a valid marriage in Georgia requires only that (1) the Parties are able to contract; (2) the parties have an actual contract; and (3) the parties consummate the marriage according to law. Further, Georgia law states that a marriage that is valid in other respects and supposed by the parties to be valid “shall not be affected by want of authority in the minister, Governor or any former Governor of this state, judge, city recorder, magistrate, or other person to solemnize the same; nor shall such objection be heard from one party who has fraudulently induced the other to believe that the marriage was legal.” O.C.G.A. § 19-3-42.
In a recent case argued by Elena Sanchez-Curtis in Forsyth County, the court found that the parties did have a religious ceremony that met the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 19-3-1. The disputed facts were as follows:
- The Petitioner was raised Muslim, and the Respondent was raised Catholic. They began dating in the summer of 2003. Respondent became pregnant in 2006 and Petitioner asked Respondent to marry him. In preparation for the marriage, Respondent converted to Islam and renounced her Catholic faith.
- Respondent and Petitioner had a marriage ceremony, at al-Farooq Mosque on November 20, 2006. At the time, Respondent was five months pregnant with the parties’ minor child.
- The parties immediately began to cohabit and held themselves out as husband and wife. Respondent, who is not a native of the United States, believed that the religious ceremony was a legal cognizable marriage.
- On April 26, 2013, Petitioner and Respondent were married in a civil ceremony, in Fulton County, Georgia.
The Petitioner contested that there was no valid religious ceremony or, in the alternative, that this was simply a common law marriage argument. At stake were businesses and real property, all acquired after 2006, but before the date of the civil ceremony.
The court held:
“Here, the evidence showed that Plaintiff referred to Defendant as his wife in front of others prior to 2013; that he sent Defendant a birthday card with the phrase ‘For My Beautiful, Amazing Wife’ on November 20, 2009; that Plaintiff listed his status as ‘Married’ in documents prepared in 2010 for the purpose of purchasing a home; that Plaintiff is shown as ‘A MARRIED PERSON’ on the associated security deed executed in February 2011; and that Defendant was listed as Plaintiff’s spouse in insurance and other documentation related to Plaintiff’s employment at Delta Airlines, Inc. Plaintiff’s assertions to the contrary were not credible.
Accordingly, the Court hereby FINDS that November 20, 2006, the date of the religious ceremony, is the date of the parties’ marriage.”