Couple of marriage questions (why yes, I watch soaps...)

I have a couple of questions about legalities in marriage and figured someone here would know The Truth.

  1. If you are married and something happens to your spouse, like they disappear, isn’t there a statute of limitations or something on when you are legally free to divorce/remarry? I do know something like this happened to a friend of a friend (LOL), but I don’t remember the details.

  2. So what happens if that time period expires and you remarry, and then your spouse returns! Or if your dead spouse comes back from the dead!!! Who are you legally married to? What are the legal ramifications of this? I know I read a book years ago where someone who was reported dead in WW1 came back when his wife had remarried and had 3 kids. I can’t remember now what the resolution there was either, but I can see how something like that could possibly happen in real life.

  3. At what point are you considered legally married? You get the marriage license before the ceremony. But do you need the ceremony? Do you need the license filed somewhere? What happens if the ceremony, whether its a minister or justice of the peace or whatever, is interrupted? I’m sure this doesn’t happen often in real life either, but I suppose it could.

You can have your missing spouse declared legally dead after a period of time. ISTR reading somewhere that the period of time is seven years. There are also procedures for divorcing a missing spouse. After either of those happened, you’d be free to remarry.

As to #3, in most states (assuming you’re in the U.S.) the marriage is legal at the moment that both spouses have said “I do.” Assuming, of course, that it’s not void (i.e, you marry your brother or someone who is still legally hitched to someone else) and was properly registered, officiated over, and solemnized according to state law (and the requirements for that differ considerably from state to state). If there was a defect in the formalities, sometimes later correction of the problem can legitimize the marriage, in which case it would usually be a legal marriage at the time of the correction. For instance, in Virginia, if there is a formal defect in the ceremony (such as the priest isn’t really a priest) and at least one member of the false marriage doesn’t know they aren’t married, the marriage becomes legal if and when the couple consummates it. (I always wondered if a blow job counts.)


Until Bowers vs Hardwick in 2003, giving or getting a blow job in Virginia was a felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison.

Bowers was from IIRC 1986 and it upheld the power of the states to criminalize private consnensual “sodomy.” The 2003 case that struck down “sodomy” laws was Lawrence v Texas. Oddly, Virginia has tended to ignore Lawrence, continuing to prosecute men who solicit sodomy.


I believe Virginia has distinguished public solicitation to commit sodomy from the private consensual sodomy upon which Lawrence turned.

If it’s not illegal to engage in sodomy, then it not illegal to solicit it. Virginia charged Singson under 18.2-29, solicitation of a felony other than murder, the felony in question being 18.2-361, “crimes against nature.” 18.2-361 is unconstitutional under Lawrence. Since the act Singson was accused of soliciting is not a felony, by definition he can’t be guilty of soliciting a felony. Relate the charge to a statute making public sex illegal and I have no problem with the arrest and conviction (with the exceptions of 1) there are probably better uses of the resources of the Virginia Beach police than cruising mall bathrooms and 2) if this was such a serious offense then why did several months elapse between the incident and the arrest?). But he wasn’t charged for attempting to solicit public sex. He was charged for soliciting to break a law which was struck down as unconstitutional months before the incident took place.

Really? Been reading law books much? If so, you probably know that it’s not illegal to engage in sexual intercourse, but it is illegal to sollicit it.

[c]crazyjoe**, if I read Otto right, you’re equivocating between two meanings of the word “solicit.” The “ask somebody for something” meaning, and the “offer to pay for sex” meaning. One’s legal (so long as the thing asked for isn’t a crime), and the other isn’t. But they aren’t the same thing.


What? Unless “solicit” means “offer in exchange for money”, doesn’t that mean that it’s illegal to say to your spouse/lover/gf/bf: “How about we have some sex tonight?”? How do you engange in sexual intercourse with previously asking or being asked for it? (Possibly using non-verbal means, of course, but solicitation can be non-verbal – waving a $100 bill in front of a prostitute would be solicitation).

It’s illegal to offer money for sex, but it’s certainly not illegal to ask someone to have sex with you. Singson was not charged with criminal solicitation of prostitution. He was charged with criminal solicitation to commit “crimes against nature.” You might want to read the law books yourself, specifically the two sections of the Virginia code that I cited.

The underlying felony is no longer a felony. A charge of soliciting a felony that does not exist cannot stand. The appeals court’s claim that there is a distinction in the law between private and public sodomy is unsupported by the plain text of the law. The Virginia legislature could certainly have specified “in public” if it wanted to when it passed the sodomy law. It didn’t. Reading an “in public” exception into the law where none exists is judicial activism of the sort that conservatives usually rail against quite loudly.

Until you actually make the formal vow, you’re not married, license or not. However, you also have to have the license and meet the other requirements as well, but the vow makes it official and final.

I think if someone who has been officially declared dead returns, ALL his rights and obligations are void. His will has been probated; his estate distributed; his marriage is over; the works. He would have one hell of a time undoing all that, and some of it, like the first marriage, probably can’t be undone. He could marry the spouse a second time if she were available, though.

Oh, and for the benefit of the OTHER discussion going on here, prostitution is not illegal in Britain. Streetwalking, pimping, and brothel-keeping are, but selling sex for money behind closed doors by yourself is not illegal. (Brothel-keeping is defined as more than one person selling sex in the same location.) Curb-crawling (buying sex on the street) is also illegal.

Ask Bill Clinton.

Sorry, I know, totally non-GQ, but I couldn’t help it! Sorry!! :stuck_out_tongue:

Are you sure about that? It’s my understanding that in a situation like this, any second marriage would have to be annulled, because the “widow” wasn’t really free to marry.

In the UK, the first marriage would be annulled after the presumption of death, so the “widow” would be free to marry again, and her second marriage would be valid. She’d have to get a divorce from her second husband and re-marry her first, if that’s what she wanted to do.