Comity: Validity of Foreign Marriage in Florida

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Whether a foreign marriage is considered a legal marriage in Florida is dependent upon two concepts, validity, and recognition.

First, the marriage must have been a legally valid marriage where it took place. Legally valid where it took place means, in accordance with the law where the marriage was performed.

Second, the marriage must be one that if legal where it occurred, will be recognized in Florida.

Recognizing a marriage that occurs in a foreign state or nation is known as comity. Comity is when one jurisdiction extends the courtesy of enforcing the laws of another jurisdiction.  Comity may be granted out of respect, deference, or friendship, rather than as an obligation.  Comity is born of the concept that courts should not act in a way that demeans the jurisdiction, laws, or judicial decisions of other jurisdictions.

However, in many countries, comity is effective only to the extent that foreign laws or judgments do not directly conflict with the forum country’s public policy.  For example although marriage to a young child might have been a valid marriage in another country, it would not be recognized in Florida due to marriage to children going against public policy.

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