Nelson v. Marshall, WD

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtLOWENSTEIN
Citation869 S.W.2d 132
PartiesLinda B. NELSON, Appellant, v. Marion MARSHALL, et al., Respondents. 47669.
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Decision Date16 November 1993

Page 132

869 S.W.2d 132
Linda B. NELSON, Appellant,
Marion MARSHALL, et al., Respondents.
No. WD 47669.
Missouri Court of Appeals,
Western District.
Nov. 16, 1993.
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to
Supreme Court Denied Dec. 28, 1993.
Application to Transfer Denied Feb. 22, 1994.

Page 133

William J. Daily, Glasgow, for appellant.

Gary G. Sprick, and W.F. Daniels, Fayette, for respondents.


This appeal from a bench trial involves the question of whether a valid, legal marriage can occur pursuant to § 451.040, RSMO 1986, where a ceremonial marriage occurred without application for or issuance of a marriage license, and the "groom" died the following day, negating any opportunity for successful application or issuance of a marriage license. Appellant, Linda Nelson (Linda), asks to be declared the widow of Samuel Marshall (Sam). She asserts the trial court erred as a matter of law in holding there was no valid marriage due to their failure to obtain a marriage license.

Linda and the decedent Sam had a twelve and a half year relationship. Linda and Sam lived together from December, 1991 until Sam's hospitalization in February, 1992. During the course of their relationship, they discussed the issue of marriage.

On February 12, 1992 while Sam was in a Columbia, Missouri, hospital, Sam and Linda attempted to get married. At Sam's request, Linda discussed with the hospital chaplain, Reverend Jensen, the procedure of how they could get married under their current circumstances. Reverend Jensen called the Boone County Recorder that day to find out the procedure for obtaining a marriage license for someone in the hospital. He was told the parties would have to get a waiver for the three day waiting period from a judge before a marriage certificate could be issued. §§ 451.040.2-451.040.3. Jensen relayed this information to Linda. He noted it would be difficult to get both the waiver and license because it was a legal holiday, Lincoln's birthday.

A "marriage" ceremony conducted by Jensen was held February 12, in Sam's room despite the absence of a marriage license. Linda believed the paperwork could be completed after the ceremony. Following the ceremony, Sam and Linda both believed they were married.

The following day, February 13, Jensen told Linda that both she and Sam needed to sign some papers to obtain the license. § 451.040.2 states that before receiving a license, "the parties to the marriage must present an application for the license, duly signed...." The papers were never signed because of Sam's worsening condition. That evening Sam died. No marriage license was ever obtained.

Linda filed for letters of administration in the Probate Court of Howard County seeking to be appointed Personal Representative of Sam's estate. Respondents, Marion Marshall and Elma Lou Davis (Sam's brother and sister) also filed a joint application for letters of administration declaring they were the only heirs-at-law and that Sam had no surviving spouse. Following Respondents' filing for letters of administration, Linda withdrew her application for letters of administration. This suit was instituted by Linda after the existence of the marriage was questioned by respondents in the probate proceedings.

Review of the trial court's decision is governed by Rule 73.01 and the principles established in Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976). The decision must be affirmed unless: 1) there is not substantial evidence to support it; 2) it is against the weight of the evidence; 3) it erroneously declares the law; or, 4) it erroneously applies the law. Id. at 32. On these facts this question is raised: may a ceremonial marriage conducted by one with statutory authority

Page 134

to solemnize a marriage without the parties having ever applied for, or obtained, a marriage license be ruled married? The trial court ruled no valid marriage exists. This court affirms.

The general rule is that marriage is a contract as well as a status or a legal condition and the state has a legitimate and rightful concern with the persons domiciled in its borders in relation to this status. State ex rel Miller v. Jones, 349 S.W.2d 534, 537 (Mo.App.1961); General American Life Ins. Co. V. Cole, 195 F.Supp. 867 (E.D.Mo.1961) (citing Ryan v. Ryan, 156 Mo.App. 655, 137 S.W. 1014 (1961)). To further the state's interest in the marital relationship, it may implement "reasonable regulations that do not interfere in a significant manner with decisions to enter into marital relationships." People v. Schuppert, 217 Ill.App.3d 715, 577 N.E.2d 828, 830 (5th Dist.1991) app. denied 143 Ill.2d 646, 167 Ill.Dec. 407, 587 N.E.2d 1022 (1992) (citing Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 98 S.Ct. 673, 54 L.Ed.2d 618 (1978)). Requiring a marriage license is an appropriate regulation. A rational relationship exists between "the requirement that marriages be licensed and the strong continuing interest of the State in the institution of marriage ..." Id. As part of Missouri's laws regulating marriage, and the statute at the heart of this appeal, § 451.040.1 requires a marriage license for a marriage to be considered valid. The statute contains the following language:

"Previous to any marriage in this state, a license for that purpose shall be obtained from the officer...

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12 cases
  • ARY JEWELERS v. Krigel, 89,543
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 19, 2004
    ...upon interest rate" as determined by the district court. See Raynolds v. Row, 184 Kan. 791, 794, 339 P.2d 358 (1959); Nelson v. Marshall, 869 S.W.2d 132, 134 (Mo. App. 1993). The district court erred in so Second, we also reject — under both Missouri and Kansas law — Krigels' argument that ......
  • Accounts Management, Inc. v. Litchfield, 20129
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 18, 1998
    ...proven by direct or circumstantial evidence. See In re Estate of McCartney, 213 Neb. 550, 330 N.W.2d 723, 724 (1983); Nelson v. Marshall, 869 S.W.2d 132, 135 (Mo.Ct.App.1993); Ma v. Ma, 483 N.W.2d 732, 735 (Minn.Ct.App.1992). AMI submitted an affidavit from the secretary of the Big Bend Pre......
  • Estate of Depasse, H023199.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 2002
    ...flaw to the validity of a marriage. (52 Am.Jur.2d, supra, § 32, pp. 751-752, citing among others Nelson v. Marshall (Mo.Ct.App.1993) 869 S.W.2d 132 (Nelson).) The California courts have never authoritatively determined whether a license is an absolute requirement for a valid marriage. (11 W......
  • Rivera v. Rivera, 29,511.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 13, 2010 on similar express language that voids or invalidates marriages performed without a license. See, e.g., Nelson v. Marshall, 869 S.W.2d 132, 134 (Mo.Ct.App.1993) (explaining that a statute which provided that "no marriage hereafter contracted shall be recognized as valid unless the ......
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