50 years later, couple discovers marriage not official

By Jacob Rascon and NBC News, | Posted - Dec 22nd, 2012 @ 6:29pm


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REDLANDS, Calif. — After nearly 50 years of marriage, a couple found out their union was not recognized by the government.

In 1964 in Northern California, Bob and Norma Clark had a wonderful wedding. The dress, the cake, the attendees all were perfect, they said. Nearly five decades later the happily-married couple, now in their 70s, lives in Redlands in the Inland Empire.

While getting paperwork in order for their will recently, they made a somewhat disturbing discovery: they were never legally married.

"Bob had called me and said, ‘Could you get the license?' And I couldn't find it," Norma Clark said. "And I couldn't find it for a reason: because it wasn't there."

When you get a marriage license, the person who then marries you must return the license to your county record office where it becomes a marriage certificate. The pastor who married the Clarks apparently never did that.

Bob Clark went to San Bernardino to fix everything.

"I went in there thinking I could just do it and (the clerk) said ‘no, no, no, you have to have witnesses,' and I said, ‘well, you know most people at our wedding are dead.' If we had a couple more years, we would have been in trouble," Bob Clark said.

Luckily, the Clarks had their old maid of honor and junior usher in town for the holidays. The four of them, along with others including their children, finally made their marriage official.

"I hope it works out, now that its official," said their son, Alex Clark.

"Well our relatives got a terrific bang out of it," Norma Clark said. "All our friends here wanted to know when the reception's going to be. I suppose we're going to have to throw a party."

According to the San Bernardino County Records Office, 30 couples this year alone have run into the same problem as the Clarks. They recommend anyone who didn't receive a marriage certificate check with their local records office about it. Most certificates arrive in the mail within a few weeks of the wedding.

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Jacob Rascon
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