What is a Proxy Military Marriage?

Feb 9, 2024 | marriage, Military Wedding, Wedding

Proxy military marriage is a unique arrangement where a member of the military, often deployed or stationed far from home, gets married through a stand-in representative. This representative, known as a proxy, stands in place of the absent partner during the marriage ceremony. In Montana, you can actually have a double proxy wedding, where there are two stand ins, one for both spouses. The practice of proxy marriages has a long history, often serving practical purposes in times of war or when physical presence is not possible. Now, it’s a bit more commonplace as a way to gain access to benefits or simply solidify their love, when a couple is geographically separate. 

What is a Proxy Marriage?

A proxy marriage is a ceremony where one or both parties are not physically present, and instead, someone else stands in their place to exchange vows and complete the legal requirements of marriage. Historically, proxy marriages were done over the phone, but now they can be done virtually with video conferencing. 

In the case of military personnel, this proxy marriage often happens in one of three situations: 

  • (1) when they are deployed or stationed overseas and they cannot be in the US to get married to their US partner; 
  • (2) It may also happen with military personnel who are engaged to a non-US citizen and the proxy stands in for the military person overseas; or 
  • (3) Another scenario is when both partners are military personnel stationed overseas and don’t want to wait to get married until they are back in the US, for legal benefits or other reasons. 

How does it work?

The process typically involves the absent party appointing a proxy and obtaining the necessary legal documentation. The proxy then attends the marriage ceremony on their behalf, participating in the exchange of vows and even signing off on certain documents. If both parties are absent, then the couple will need to fill out paperwork remotely and allow strangers to stand in for them as their marriage proxy. Once completed, the marriage is legally binding, granting the same rights and responsibilities as a traditional marriage.

Legality and Recognition

Most states do not allow for proxy marriages. However, where they are recognized, such as in California, they may only be allowed for military personnel. For example, California does not allow proxy marriages unless you are a member of the Armed Forces. The law, Cal. Fam. Code Section 420 says that both parties to a marriage must be physically present unless one person is stationed or deployed overseas as an Armed Forces member. In that case, they may get married by proxy using power of attorney. 

Colorado (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-2-109) and Texas (Tex. Fam. Code § 2.006) also allow for proxy marriages. Each state has it’s own set of requirements for what must happen in order for a proxy marriage to be legally binding. For example, Texas also only allows for members of the Armed Forces to be married by proxy. 

Double proxy marriages are only legal in Montana, thanks to a quirky rule that allows both parties to the marriage to be absent from their own wedding. One party must be a resident of Montana or a member of the armed forces in order to utilize this Montana law. (See Mont. Code. Section 40-1-301). 

But what if you get a proxy marriage done in Montana or California? Is it legally recognized in other states? Yes, thanks to the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution and local state statutes, marriages validly executed in one state may be recognized in other states. (Cox, B.J. (2003) Interstate Validation of Marriages and Civil Unions, American Bar Association).

Requirements and Procedure for Proxy Military Marriage

The requirements for proxy marriage vary depending on the jurisdiction but generally include consent from both parties, appointment of a proxy, and completion of the necessary paperwork.

The process typically kicks off with the absent party or parties appointing a proxy and obtaining any required legal documentation, such as a marriage license or affidavit of consent. The proxy then attends the marriage ceremony on behalf of the absent party, with a legal officiant presiding over the proceedings. After the ceremony, the marriage is recorded, and the necessary paperwork is filed with the appropriate authorities. 

Reasons for Proxy Military Marriages

Proxy military marriages serve several practical purposes for service members and their partners.

Deployment challenges

Military deployments often entail long periods of separation from loved ones, making it difficult for service members to participate in traditional marriage ceremonies. Proxy marriages provide a solution for couples who wish to formalize their relationship despite being geographically separated. For example, if one partner of the couple is deployed overseas while the other remains in the US, they can have a proxy stand in for their military partner.

Legal benefits

Proxy marriages can confer various legal benefits, including access to healthcare, survivor benefits, and spousal support. For military personnel, these benefits are particularly important due to the unique challenges and risks associated with their service. For example, if a military couple is located in a war zone and something terrible happens, they wouldn’t be alerted of the issue or have any rights to see their partner without being married. The war zone may not allow marriages, so initiating a double proxy wedding from the US may be a good option. In addition, if one partner is still in the US, while the other partner is overseas, they may benefit from military marriage benefits in the US while their partner is away at war. 

Immigration purposes

In cases where one partner is a foreign national, proxy marriage can facilitate marriage to facilitate the immigration process by establishing a legal relationship for the purposes of obtaining a visa or residency status. However, beware of common scams done by foreign nationals to take advantage of US benefits or US people. Read more about this in the next section.

In addition, proxy marriages are only effective for immigration purposes if they are consummated after the proxy wedding takes place. The term “consummation” in this scenario simply means being physically present together in the same location within a certain time frame. 

 

Beware of This Common Scam Involving Proxy Military Marriages

The nature of proxy marriages can sometimes lead to scams and fraud. For instance, one unfortunately common scam that military personnel are often the victim of comes from proxy marriages to non-US citizens. The scam works like this: a military personnel meets a foreigner online. They get married by proxy without ever meeting in real life. The foreigner then proceeds to claim military benefits, such as Basic Housing Allowance (BAH), and then stays in their country and never continues the relationship with the military person. Or they continue the relationship as long as it takes to fulfill the scam and receive certain benefits. 

 

The Bottom Line

Proxy military marriages offer a practical solution for service members and their partners to solidify their commitment to one another despite geographical separation. Double proxy marriages may also be a resolution for military couples who are both stationed overseas. This practice is only available in select states, but is recognized throughout the US as a valid marriage, as long as it was executed correctly in the state in which allows proxy marriages. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Proxy Military Marriages

We get it; this is a niche area of military life, and you probably have a lot of questions. We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a list of common questions about proxy marriages.

Q: What are the benefits of a proxy military marriage?

A: Proxy military marriages offer legal recognition and access to benefits for service members and their partners, particularly in cases of deployment or immigration, such as healthcare benefits, financial support, survivor rights, and more.

 

Q: Can anyone get married through a proxy?

A: The few states that allow proxy by marriage tend to only allow it for members of the military. For example, California only allows marriage by proxy for the armed forces, as defined in Cal. Fam. Code Section 420.

 

Q: Are proxy marriages legally binding?

A: Yes, proxy marriages can be legally binding if they meet the requirements and regulations of the jurisdiction where the marriage occurs.

Q: Will my proxy marriage count for immigration purposes?
A: Only if you consummate the marriage, which essentially means you both are physically in the same location within a certain time frame. (See INA 101(a)(35)).

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