Carabetta v. Carabetta
182 Conn. 344 (1980)

  • Mr. and Mrs. Carabetta were married by a priest in a Catholic Church, lived together as husband and wife for over 20 years, and had four children together.
    • However, they neglected to get a marriage license.
  • Years later, when they filed for divorce, the Trial Court refused to grant a divorce because according to Connecticut law, they were never married.
    • The Trial Court found that noncompliance with a statutory requirement of a marriage license is a fatal flaw to the creation of a legally valid marriage.
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Connecticut Supreme Court looked to Connecticut law and found that it did not have an explicit requirement that the couple have a valid marriage license.
      • The Court interpreted that to mean that a license was just something that could be used as proof of marriage, but it wasn’t necessary to actually be married.
  • The basic rule is that unless a marriage mandates a license, then a license is only directory, and the failure to obtain a license does not void the marriage.
    • Basically, a license is just a formality that makes it easier to prove a valid marriage, unless it is required by Statute.
    • If a license is required, and you don’t get one, you might still have a valid common-law marriage, if that happens to be available in the State.
    • Conversely, States do not require a valid solemnization ceremony. That is always optional for a valid marriage.