Death Prior To Recording of Marriage Documents Does Not Invalidate Marriage

Porter v. Porter, [Ms. 1200682; 1200683, Dec. 10, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). In an appeal from the Baldwin Probate Court, the Court (Stewart, J.; Bolin and Sellers, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., concurs specially; Wise, J., concurs in the result) resolves a question of first impression – “[w]hether the death of a party to a marriage, after a marriage document is executed but before the marriage document is recorded, invalidates the marriage for failure to comply with the registration requirements of § 22-9A-17, Ala. Code 1975.” Ms. *1.

Reiterating that “‘[w]ords used in a statute must be given their natural, plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning, and where plain language is used a court is bound to interpret that language to mean exactly what it says.’ IMED Corp. v. Systems Eng’g Assocs. Corp., 602 So. 2d 344, 346 (Ala. 1992),” the Court affirms the probate court’s conclusion that the death of Sean Porter before the recording of the marriage document did not invalidate his marriage to Alexis Porter. Ms. *8. The Court explains “the undisputed facts establish that the marriage between Sean and Alexis conformed with the requirements of § 30-1-9.1 [Ala. Code 1975], that both parties signed the requisite marriage documents on September 26, 2020, and that those documents were submitted to the probate court for recording on October 20, 2020, which was 24 days after the parties signed the documents.” Ibid.

The Court rejects appellants’ contention that Sean’s death before recording of the marriage certificate abated the marriage:

The appellants fail to allege, much less demonstrate, that the submission of marriage documents to a probate office for recording should properly be considered within the class of actions or causes of action subject to Alabama’s common-law or statutory abatement rules. Importantly, persons who register previously executed marriage documents pursuant to § 22-9A-17 are not engaging in a court proceeding, litigating with another party, or seeking the probate court’s determination of their rights and liabilities.

Ms. *12.

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