Indiana Counties Take the Plunge
August 16, 2011 by Jill Russell
JTAC launches public online marriage license application
On Friday, May 27, Monica Freeman and her fiancé Preston Holb walked into the Allen County Clerk’s Office to apply for a marriage license. But it wasn’t business as usual, because the Clerk’s staff didn’t ask for their dates of birth, where they were born, or even their mothers’ maiden names.
Have Indiana’s requirements to obtain a marriage license changed? No, the couple used a new Online Marriage License Application developed by the Indiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC).
The day before visiting the Clerk’s Office, Monica and Preston entered most of the required information for the license application into the new online system that was piloted by four Indiana counties. This reduced the amount of time they had to spend at the courthouse, and they were on their way, marriage license in hand, in just minutes.
“I think this is a great service to have online,” Freeman said, “especially as more and more people of our age group—who are so comfortable using computers—are starting to get married.”
According to Allen County Clerk Lisbeth (Lisa) Borgmann, “The staff was very excited and said the process worked great!” Allen County was the first county to use the new pilot application on the same day they began issuing licenses electronically.
For four years, the Supreme Court’s INcite web portal, developed by JTAC, has allowed clerks to create and store marriage licenses electronically. The new public marriage license application has essentially put the data entry responsibilities into the hands of applicants, like Freeman and Holb, reducing both the time clerks spend processing applications and the time applicants have to spend in the Clerk’s Office. INcite also allows clerks to submit data electronically to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) for all completed marriage licenses, which greatly reduces paperwork and mailing costs in clerks’ offices and data entry at ISDH. Before adopting INcite and the Online Marriage License Application, Allen County processed marriage licenses entirely on paper.
The pilot program also included Hancock, Tippecanoe and Vanderburgh Counties. Couples living in any of the pilot counties (or out-of-state couples planning to marry in one of the pilot counties) could begin a marriage license application online beginning May 1. On June 10, the pilot ended and the online application became available to all Indiana counties that use INcite to process marriage licenses. As of August 1, 2011, 60 counties offer the online application to couples planning to marry.
How It Works
The Online Marriage License Application allows couples to enter most of the information they would otherwise have to provide in person at the Clerk’s office. For example, applicants can enter their names, addresses, dates of birth, information about previous marriages and their parents’ information. This information is required by statute and collected on the application for genealogical purposes.
“I was a little intimidated by the process at first, but it was incredibly easy…”
“I was a little intimidated by the process at first, but it was incredibly easy and simple,” Freeman said. “We weren’t expecting much, since it was a government system, but it looked really nice, and it was smooth and easy to use.”
The program allows the applicants to enter the information at their own pace at home or using any computer with Internet access. Once they begin an application, they can save and return to it using a secure “license key” (a unique, numeric code). This process provides applicants the flexibility and time to gather information for some of the application questions which are not necessarily intuitive, such as the state where each parent was born or the ZIP code on parents’ addresses.
JTAC developers took special precautions with the security aspect of this application because people can use shared or public computers to submit their applications. Once information is saved on the first page, each subsequent page shows the secure license key the couple may use to return to their application, as well as a five-minute countdown timer that shows when the page will expire. If they need more time, applicants may click a button to add time in two-minute increments. If the page expires before they add time or save their work, the couple will not be able to retrieve their application, and they must begin again. This minor inconvenience is balanced by the critical importance of securing the personal information being entered and removing any opportunity for others to access the information.
Applicants still need to complete the marriage license transaction in person at the Clerk’s office. There, they must provide their social security numbers [required by IC 31–11–4–4(d)] and valid identifications to prove their identities and dates of birth, and they must answer a series of questions that the clerk is required by law to ask.