Since the social stigma surrounding internet dating and social networking has already dissipated, a new type of cyber-relationship has become prevalent amongst online lovers: online marriage. In India online marriage is already big business with many companies being set up to help people find and marry their ideal partner online. With an ancient cultural tradition of arranged marriage and proxy marriage, the idea has been quicker to take off in the subcontinent than many European countries.
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In China, the concept of “wanghun” has already been around for years. It entails a certain type of internet marriage whereby the partners normally never meet in real life, and may even be married for-real already. Chinese sociologists have classified this as a type of adult game, the creation of an online fantasy relationship, and little more than an exercise in escapism.
In many countries, including the UK and the US, a properly conducted online marriage can have legal standing. The legal strength of this marriage will depend on exactly the type of marriage performed, and the laws in your state and country.
The most informal type of marriage that it is possible for citizens of common law countries (including the UK and the US) to practise is that of a marriage by correspondence. In this scenario a couple might meet online and verbally agree that they are married. The marriage may stand in some jurisdictions and not in others, and may not entail either partner to many of the legal and tax-status benefits of a ceremonial marriage.
To obtain a fully legally recognised marriage online, it’s necessary to engage in marriage by proxy. Proxy marriages can be organised by lawyers and solicitors and are valid even if neither partner is present at the time. This type of online marriage has many advantages for tax, insurance and is generally legally recognised for immigration purposes, after it has been consummated. Even before consummation, the partner is sometimes allowed to emigrate under legal “fiancé” status.
There are a great many legal firms online who charge a small fee for this service, and theoretically any lawyer in a jurisdiction which supports proxy marriages can file a proxy marriage. In most US states the marriages are recognised as nothing more than common law marriages, and so if possible it is always preferable to have a full ceremonial marriage.
Moreover, proxy marriages can be incredibly expensive and so are usually only practised by military personnel who are on active duty and feel it a necessity to be married as soon as possible. Bearing all these caveats in mind, online marriage is certainly possible and has been practised by many around the world as a useful alternative to a ceremony in person.