Navigating The Legal Waters Before And After Getting Married

Marriage means different things to different people. To most engaged couples or newlyweds, it is the ultimate expression of two people’s love for one another and a desire to be eternally joined in matrimony. To society and the government, marriage is a legal contract with specific requirements and a legal process for its dissolution. Before getting married, couples must ensure that they are eligible to get married, that they have installed adequate protections against unforeseen circumstances, and that they are ready to join their lives together.

Legal Requirements For Marriage
Before couples may marry, they must obtain a license from the government. There are relatively few requirements to obtain a license, although they vary from state to state. In general, parties must be of the proper age or have parental approval; parties must not be encumbered by being currently married; and parties must have the ceremony performed by specific classes of individuals. A priest, rabbi, justice of the peace, and captain of a vessel at sea are examples of individuals authorized to perform ceremonies. A witness will also be required.

A few states have rules that are more restrictive. Some states require the parties to obtain blood tests. These blood tests will determine whether either party possesses certain diseases. Other states will require the parties to wait for a brief period between applying for and receiving their marriage licenses. They may also be required to wait for another period between receiving the licenses and having the wedding ceremony.

Asset Protection
Asset protection can be a difficult subject for engaged couples. Most couples wish to marry out of a desire to express love. Parties to an engagement will often view requiring a prenuptial agreement, segregating finances, or ensuring that certain property is not listed as marital property as a cynical maneuver denoting a lack of trust in the other person. Additionally, some superstitious individuals believe that by taking these basic precautions, the party soliciting the agreements will cast a shadow over the relationship that will inevitably lead to its dissolution.

Nothing could be further from the truth. No one marries with the specific intent of getting divorced, but the reality is that over half of all couples joined in matrimony will end their relationship with a finalized divorce. During a divorce, tension and inflated legal bills often stem from whether an asset constitutes a marital asset. Prenuptial agreements protect both parties from the other. They also serve as protection from poor judicial decisions and help to prevent heavy legal fees.

Creating a prenuptial agreement is not something people should do privately. Some courts are unlikely to enforce prenuptial agreements in certain situations. Parties intent on getting married should have a prenuptial agreement drafted by a lawyer to both parties’ mutual satisfaction. If a prenuptial agreement is held as invalid and unenforceable, the entire structure of the marital finances and what assets were owned by the parties beforehand may be in contention. An attorney who is experienced in family law can draft an enforceable agreement for the parties at minimal cost.

After The Ceremony
Newly-wedded couples have an array of practical concerns with which to contend. There is no law requiring a female to take the surname of the male or vice versa, but most new married couples will have one spouse take the name of the other. This will entail legally changing one’s name, which is usually a simple administrative process.

Some states permit citizens to begin using a new name, and the name that is in common use will become their legal name; in modern society with the advent of expansive government programs and identity theft, most organizations will want a court order before acknowledging that a person has changed his or her name.
New couples must also integrate their affairs. Creating a living will, adding the new spouse to existing bank accounts, and signing up for spousal benefits at work or while on government programs is all part of a new marriage. The exact processes for these tasks vary depending upon the institution.

Property accrued during the course of the marriage is considered marital property and may be subject to division in the event of a divorce. To help avoid commingling marital assets with preexisting assets, married couples may wish to keep existing financial accounts separate and create joint accounts.

The legal process for couples who wish to marry is simple in most states. Couples must obtain a license from the state, wait a short time, and have the ceremony performed by a specific type of person. Many of the matters attendant to matrimony can be expensive and complex. For example, convincing a spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement is oftentimes difficult, but necessary in modern society.

The author writes about many subjects including legal issues and relationships. She is currently writing for www.EphraimLaw.com. Make sure you check out all the other related posts on this blog.