Summary of Executive Order 202.20 and Executive Order 202.21

By Adriel Colón-Casiano

Executive Orders

On April 18, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.20 which was partially modified under Executive Order 202.21 invoking new powers from a law passed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to temporarily suspend or modify laws necessary to assist or aid in coping with a declared State disaster emergency. On March 3, 2020, the Governor signed into law legislation that expanded his authority to temporarily suspend, modify, or issue directives in response to a declared State disaster emergency. That legislation also accompanied a $40 million appropriation to the Governor to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Domestic Relations Law was suspended and modified so that persons who would have an issued marriage license expire as a result of a directive to maintain distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, would not be subject to the 60 day waiting period required to obtain a marriage license.

The Domestic Relations Law was suspended and modified so that persons unable to marry within the time frame issued on a marriage license would have fees waived related to obtaining a second marriage license that mirrors the initial issued marriage license.

The Governor directed that the issuance of a marriage license application, marriage license, witnessing or solemnizing of a marriage ceremony would be authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided the following conditions are met:

  • The couple presents valid photo ID to verify identity whenever required by law,
  • The video conference allows for direct interaction between the couple and the town or city clerk, the witness, or person to solemnize the marriage,
  • The couple must affirmatively represent that he or she is physically situated in the jurisdiction where the marriage is legally allowed to occur within the State of New York,
  • The couple must transmit by electronic means a legible copy of the signed document directly to the town or city clerk, the witness or the persons to solemnity the marriage on the same date it was signed,
  • The person signing by such means may transmit the signed copy back to the person responsible for the document,
  • To the extend possible all parties must use best possible efforts to ensure the document is transmitted in the most confidential manner, and
  • The electronic signed copy of the marriage license or marriage license application will become the official document for purposes of the Domestic Relations Law.

This directive was later modified on April 19, 2020 under Executive Order 202.21 regarding solemnization of a marriage ceremony to expressly include any officiant, public or private, as able to perform or solemnize a marriage ceremony utilizing audio-video technology.

Under the newly enacted law, the Governor has the power to suspend, modify, or issue directives during a declared emergency for 30 days which may be extended for an unlimited number of 30 day periods with consent of the legislature after each subsequent period. Unless the Governor elects to extend the suspension or directives, they will expire on May 18, 2020.

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