In Missoula County, putting a ring on it can now begin with online application

Beyonce performs on the Pyramid stage at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, in this file photo taken June 26, 2011. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
While Beyonce looks for a ring, Missoula County couples can now apply for their own marriage license over the Internet. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

By Martin Kidston

Saying “I do” will no longer require a trip to the Missoula County Courthouse, at least not initially. If you’re inclined to tie the knot, you can now apply for the license over the Internet.

Missoula County announced the new service on Tuesday, veiling it as an effort to increase business efficiencies and reduce wait times. What once took 30 minutes to complete at the County Courthouse now takes five minutes from home.

No matter how you go about it, a marriage license still costs $53. However, it’s cheaper than getting a divorce, which runs $200 and requires a visit to the judge.

“The way it worked before, the couple getting married would have to appear in our office, and we would collect all the information on the application, which could take 30 minutes,” said Clerk of Court Shirley Faust. “Now they can complete it online. While they still have to complete the application, it’s not time standing in our office waiting for us.”

Under the old system, Faust said, couples often stumbled over questions posed by the application, such as their mothers’ maiden names, and their parents’ city and state of birth. In rare occasions, some couples were unsure of their own city and state of birth – also required for the application.

“Strangely, some people don’t know exactly where they were born,” said Faust. “The spelling of their mother’s maiden name trips some people up as well.”

For those who have been previously married, they must also know the date of their divorce. While Missoula County doesn’t require them to present a copy of their divorce decree, it does place them under oath to ensure the divorce took place.

“The online application will lead to a reduction in entry errors, as couples will have time to collect necessary information prior to arriving at the courthouse,” said Faust. “We issue between 800 and 900 marriage licenses a year, and half of those are between May and August.”

Faust said the online application system was developed in Flathead County, which shared it with Missoula County. The county’s local IT crew customized the form.

“The State of Montana’s Vital Records Division is responsible for providing marriage applications,” said Faust. “They have an online system that only clerks can access. I have actually gone away from using their online system and gone to this one that’s more user friendly for the public in hopes the state will develop their own online system.”

Faust said the Missoula County Clerk of Court also permits jurors to respond to annual notices online and fill out jury questionnaires over the Internet. Missoula County is currently working on a way for residents to respond to a jury summons over the Internet as well.

“That’s a little more involved,” Faust said. “I would really like to have some sort of form to fill out online.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com