About Massachusetts Justice Of The Peace

By Rena Hudson

A Massachusetts Justice of the Peace is mostly busy solemnizing marriages. They do have other responsibilities and job functions which they may be called upon to fulfill occasionally. All these things are outlined below, in addition to the procedure followed for appointing JPs and the requirements for applying to become one.

A JP is appointed by the Governor, with the Executive Council's advice and consent, for a seven year term. They can only be appointed for the municipality which includes their own residence. However, JPs can perform marriages anywhere in the Commonwealth.

One JP may be appointed for every 5,000 residents in a municipality. Only persons with a good moral character and active in community affairs may apply. Their application must have signatures from at least five prominent community members. JPs are also expected to be familiar with the regulations that govern their own conduct and responsibilities.

Apart from solemnizing marriages, they may be required to administer oaths of office required by law and take acknowledgements similar to a notary public. They may also administer written interrogatories for taking depositions. The fees that can be charged by a JP for each of these non-marital functions are clearly defined under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The allowed maximum fee for solemnizing a marriage is $100 if the wedding ceremony is in the same municipality as the JP. If called to other municipalities, they can ask for a maximum of $150. These fees are not inclusive of additional charges applicable for a rehearsal, prenuptial counseling session and other add-on services the couple may ask for.

JPs normally travel on their own to the place where the ceremony is to be conducted. There is no requirement that any specific words have to be used to solemnize marriages. Both parties to the wedding must clearly state they accept the other as a spouse, and the JP then announces the marriage to be legal in his or her capacity as authorized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

However, there may be some issues where a JP has to be careful. One such matter is regarding advertising, since they are not officially allowed to place ads in magazines or newspapers offering their services. Even so, it's not really that hard to find a JP in a specific region. The official database of records kept by the Sec. Of State can be searched online to locate a JP by city/town or region.

Another prickly issue for JPs is that the law forbids them from refusing to solemnize marriages, unless it is the law itself that stops the couple from getting married. Many couples also make the mistake of expecting the Massachusetts Justice of the Peace to provide the marriage license. This only works if the clerk at the city or town hall is also the JP. Even if this is true, there will be a mandatory three-day waiting period before the clerk can issue the marriage license.

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