Do I have a new Daddy?
May 9, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

My sister and I suspect that our mother may have recently gotten married. Her boyfriend is Indian and they live in California, but the marriage also could have happened in Canada, or in India. How can I find out?

My mother has always been very secretive (issues, etc.). My sister and I are the only relatives in the picture. We are all very close, talking on the phone every few days. She lives in Los Angeles and has a boyfriend who is Indian, whom we've never met but have spoken to, and neither of us has seen any red flags. This is not about there being any danger in the situation; she's old/young enough to take care of herself and has no money to steal or anything like that. I simply want to know whether she's married in case, for example, God forbid something should happen -- I'd like to be aware of something as simple as her marital status. Before you jump to the "just ask her" conclusion, I certainly plan to do that if I can't easily and inexpensively find out on my own, but my mother does not respond well to "prying" or accusations that she's been lying or unduly secretive.

Several months ago, my mother started talking about how the boyfriend is trapped at a company he hates because they're responsible for his visa status (my vague understanding), and wishes he could start his own business but he can't without a green card, and isn't that unfair? The next time I saw her, I noticed her wearing what looked like an engagement ring but I didn't say anything about it. Shortly thereafter, on the phone, she told me that he'd proposed, and she was thinking about it. Later she told me that she'd accepted, so that he could get his green card. This could be true, or she for whatever reason doesn't want to tell us that she wants to marry him because she loves him. I asked if that was the only reason she was marrying him; she avoided giving a straight answer. My sister and I should be happy for her to marry someone that she cares about and who'll make her happy, but maybe my mother doesn't believe this; I don't know.

After this, the marriage/engagement was never mentioned again. My mother then started planning a trip to India to visit her fiance's parents for January. Story from my mother: In December, coming back to LA via Vancouver from overseas, the fiance was stopped by immigration. Usually the type of visa he has doesn't give problems, but they'll flag every however-many people for a more thorough check. He was stuck in Vancouver and couldn't return to the US. He told them that he was planning to return to India in a few weeks and would be able to renew or accomplish whatever necessary paperworks at that time; he had his ticket for proof, etc. They allowed him to return to LA to get his stuff together, then he and my mother went to India. I only got a very superficial account of the trip -- they went here, here, and there and the food gave her heartburn -- and haven't seen any pictures.

My sister and I now think that maybe they got married to expedite his return to the US after his visa difficulties in Vancouver. Or they got married before the Vancouver difficulties, and maybe his recently married status is what caused the problems in Vancouver. In any case, they probably went to India to have a traditional ceremony there for his traditional (I think Muslim) family.

What makes sense, given immigration/visa/green-card laws? Does that make sense about the routine check in Vancouver? Would they have been able to get married with his status in limbo? Would a wedding in Canada have worked for what they want to accomplish?

What's the easiest way to look up marriage-license records in California and/or British Columbia? Or, if the only ceremony was in India, would whatever Indian license they received be enough for US recognition, or would they have needed to then follow-up with something here? I'd probably go for asking her before trying to get marriage info from India (unless you tell me it's easy).
posted by thebazilist to Law & Government (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't do this. No matter what you find or don't find, it will only end badly. Either she's not married, and you'll feel bad for doubting her and violating her privacy. Or she is married and you'll feel bad that she didn't tell you... and then you'll be in a bind about how to tell her you know. Do you really want to cross this line? Just ask her. Really.
posted by kimdog at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The big issue is one of secrecy, not of whether or not she's married, right? The best way to deal with this is to be open yourself. "Mom, are you getting married to so-and-so?"
posted by zippy at 1:33 PM on May 9, 2009

Marriage licenses are issued by the County Clerk's office of each county. Some counties have records online, some do not. You must in-person or virtually visit each county.

Or, you can pay a service to run a search on your mother, with a company like Intelius. For about $50, you can learn about liens she may have, all addresses she's lived at, bankruptcies, the average income in her neighborhood, divorces. And yes, marriages.

Of course, once you cross this line, you can never go back. If she finds out, she'll never trust you entirely. And even if she doesn't find out, you'll always know that you didn't respect her stated wish for privacy.
posted by Houstonian at 1:34 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

How could asking your mother if she's married be "prying"? That seems like some pretty basic information for "close" family members to share.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2009

The California Vital Records Office can send a copy of a marriage certificate for $13.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2009

Response by poster: To clarify, no this is not about the secrecy, it is about knowing the simple fact of whether she has gotten married. I don't take her secrecy personally, and I usually allow her to provide or withhold information as she chooses, except in certain instances, like this one or when she refuses to tell us specific things about her health (forcing her to tell us about her blood pressure resulted in two months of "not speaking to us").

This is a logistical question, not an emotional one. This is not about playing "gotcha;" I don't intend to confront my mother or use this information to stage a "why are you always lying and secretive" battle. If I find out that she is married, I won't say anything to her; I'll simply be able to furnish the police with the correct information if she should God forbid go missing.
posted by thebazilist at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2009

I have no knowledge of how to find out, but I think it is certainly reasonable to find out and let her keep her secret if there is one. For example if she went into the hospital and needed a decision made, her husband, if she has one, would likely make those decisions over her kids. IF it never comes up, then it never does and mom preserves her thoughts of privacy.

Search on line until you find out. I am not sure you can prove she isn't married, only that you cannot find a record of it. Obviously if you find the record, you know.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:54 PM on May 9, 2009

In British Columbia, there's an online facility for ordering marriage records or doing a genealogical search of marriage records in that jurisdiction. The former requires that you either be a party to the marriage or have written permission from a party to the marriage, as well as knowing when it happened, so wouldn't work for you. The latter is more applicable to BC residents since it's meant to declare them eligible to marry elsewhere. It might work, but I doubt it, and it's not clear whether you could order one in any case, since you'd be ordering it for your mother. In either case, there are fees in the $50 or more dollar range.

The only publicly available internet searchable material BC makes available is historical -- people have to have been married for 75 years before their information is made public for genealogical purposes.

You could ask the Vital Statistics Agency but I suspect you will not get the answer you're hoping for.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:13 PM on May 9, 2009

I'm pretty sure the site HotPatatta linked will work if you really want to view marriage records. However, it's also possible that your mother obtained a confidential marriage license instead of a public one, in which case it might not be possible to view the records.
posted by movicont at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2009

my mother does not respond well to "prying" .... I asked if that was the only reason she was marrying him

Just ask her, and stop prying.

"Mom, are you marrying so and so?" Simple!

"Mom, you say you want to marry so and so, because you love him. Is there another reason you're not telling me?" That's prying. So's asking her for her blood pressure. So's going private investigator on her.

If she's incompetent, suffering from dementia, etc, then these questions are warranted, because she cannot take care of herself. But you believe that she can take care of herself, ask the questions you would ask of any other adult, and respect her as you would any other adult. (But love her like she's your Mom).

Short form: just ask her already.
posted by zippy at 2:24 PM on May 9, 2009

Just ask her.

You obviously aren't comfortable with her need for secrecy. Why would you need to "force" her to tell you about a minor medical issue (blood pressure)? How is that your business any more than her marital status?

"So, whatever happened with your marriage plans?"

If she considers that question prying, you'll just have to live with her irrationality. It's not prying, it's just a regular discussion topic for people who are "close". If she answers, you're done.

If you look up government records behind her back, you're prying. Big time.

Also, I fail to see why the police would need to know her marital status if she went missing. If they did, they'd just look it up in their computer rather than asking you. You have every right to know if she's married because she's your mom, but I don't think you need to drag an imaginary police situation into this.
posted by mmoncur at 3:51 PM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So what you're saying this that a woman you've known all your life, whom you are in a better position to evaluate than any stranger on the internet, would be deeply angered/offended if you asked her about her marital status.

You asked Metafilter how to find out if she is married. Fortunately some people answered your question.

I'd go with a background check services, since it is well worth the money to save your time and let someone else handle all the inquiries that need to be made. If that failed to come up with anything, I'd choose another service or a professional private detective for the peace of mind.

I was in a similar situation once, but not with my parents. Sometimes you do need to know but can't ask. Powers of attorney, access to bank accounts, and all sorts of issues come into play in case something were to happen to your married mom. Good luck
posted by vincele at 3:57 PM on May 9, 2009

If your mother is as you say capable of looking after herself then it is unlikely that you would need to give information either about her health or her marital status to anybody....clearly you would still like to know that you mother is well, happy, married or otherwise but the way to find out is to ask her and respect whatever answer you get, including her being angry if that's what she's like.

Should she become frail and vulnerable the situation changes but until then I'd stay well clear of invading her privacy - and searching behind her back and without her knowledge and approval is invading her privacy.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:01 PM on May 9, 2009

Marriage licenses applied for in my town get posted in the paper. Perhaps that might be fertile ground.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:47 PM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: OP,

.... it sounds like your mom would be the type of person to select a non public marriage license wherever she did it, and I'm not sure if any of the great search ideas given by houstonian or others would get you the information you need (because I thought they usually mined public information). I think that Vincele's idea is best, finding a private detective in the US. At the very least, if she got married then next year, she'd have to file taxes differently. Also, his visa status in the US would change, and there is probably some record of that here as well. (Meaning, there is probably enough data here that it wouldn't be important to search in BC or india for the information you need)

Secretive parents and the issues that arise from them often suck, OP. Sorry you have to deal with something like this. Best of luck to you.
posted by anitanita at 7:09 PM on May 9, 2009

If they got married in California with a confidential license, there is no public record, and no way you will find out without asking her. Since they live in California, and she likes her privacy, this is highly likely.
posted by sageleaf at 7:10 PM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: I worked in immigration. If they got married in India, the Indian marriage certificate would have been sufficient - no additional US certificate needed.

However, were they in India for long? It generally takes at least a couple weeks, and often a couple months, to bring a spouse to the U.S. Additionally, the people processing the application would generally be suspicious of a non-bona fide marriage given the situation you described (non green card hold, trouble re-entering the US, quick marriage) - at the least, they'd probably need a fair amount of documentation of their relationship, though they may have had that with them if they were planning the wedding.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2009

Also, this thread has some good information/links regarding bringing a spouse to the US. You could read about it and think about whether it seems compatible with the timeframe.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:19 PM on May 9, 2009

I'll simply be able to furnish the police with the correct information if she should God forbid go missing.

Your only chance of getting this information now seems to be going to them, so I don't see why they'd be going to you to get the same info in a theoretical future. That combined with the "Do I have a new Daddy" title makes me think this is not really about logistics. The police will be able to look things up in the computer system should it ever be necessary.

You can ask your mom as nicely and casually as possible, and accept whatever answer she chooses to provide. Or your can make a special effort to work out whatever issues are keeping this from being a simpler matter. But don't snoop around to find out the facts and then rationalize it as needed to help future detectives whose computer system has crashed or something...

Happy mother's day :)
posted by mdn at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2009

Don't ask your mum, and stop prying. If she got married to assist in dealing with visa issues and she wants to keep it private - she should be able to. When your mum is comfortable with it she might give you the full story. You are making a big deal out of something your mother clearly is not. Be nice to your mum, and try to respect how she is handling it - even if you are just dying to know (which you said wouldn't make much difference).
posted by zenon at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2009

ah - I missread the god forbid bit, regardless - if this is how your mum wants to do it, leave it be.
posted by zenon at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone (who answered)! I guess my mother, AskMe, and I all have different working definitions of "prying."

I'm going to contact LA county for the records -- that online state records thing that HotPattata linked won't work for marriages in the past few years. If they don't have a record then I'll confer with my sister about ponying up for a public records search or a PI to see if she got married somewhere else. I don't think she would have went for the confidential marriage.
posted by thebazilist at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2009

I know this is rather late, but generally you have to be in India for 30 days before you can get married.
posted by Monday at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2009

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