Traditional Marriage Alternatives
What Are Some Traditional Marriage Alternatives?
Some couples may be hesitant to get married under traditional procedures. There may be many reasons for this, such as religious reasons, financial considerations, or other factors. For example, a couple’s legal marital status can affect other areas of life, such as access to medical care, retirement benefits, tax consequences, and citizenship/immigration.
For such couples, it may be worthwhile to learn about different alternatives to traditional marriage. This is especially true of same-sex couples, as same-sex marriage is not available in all states. Some traditional marriage alternatives include:
- Cohabitation: This is where the couple lives together in the same residence. They usually aren’t afforded the same rights as married couple. On the other hand, the couple can spell out their rights regarding property, etc., in a “cohabitation agreement”.
- Common Law Marriage: This is where the state recognizes the couple as a married couple, even though they never had a wedding or obtained a state marriage license. This is not available in all states, but the couple is usually granted nearly the same rights as a legally married couple.
- Civil Union: This is where the couple is granted the legal status of a married couple. The couple must file with the state for a civil union, and receive the same benefits as a married couple. States that allow civil unions (or are currently reviewing civil union bills) include: CT, DE, HI, IL, NH, NJ, VT, and RI.
- Domestic Partnerships: These create a legal relationship for the couple which is similar to marriage in many states. Depending on the jurisdiction, the couple may be treated as if they were married; however, in many areas a domestic partnership is closer to a cohabitation arrangement, with the couple receiving much less rights than a legally married couple.
- Same-sex Marriage: This allows a same-sex couple to obtain the status of legally married. These are also not available in many jurisdictions due to the controversy surrounding the subject.
Therefore, a couple may have many different alternatives when it comes to contemplating marriage. In most cases, it will largely depend on the laws in the area where the couple lives.
Which Traditional Marriage Alternatives are Right for Me and My Partner?
First of all, you should understand that not all of these options are available in every state. In some cases, only one option will be allowed in the jurisdiction where you live. For example, civil unions may be allowed for some couples, but not same-sex marriage. Also, there may be various requirements associated with each option, (such as living together in the same residence for a certain amount of time).
One major concern with traditional marriage alternatives has to do with medical benefits and hospital visitation rights. For some alternatives, a person can visit their partner who has been admitted to a hospital; such rights may not be available in other arrangements (such as cohabitation).
Another concern has to do with the transfer of certain work-related benefits, such as retirement plans or company vacation packages. These can sometimes be transferred to the other partner, depending on their legal marital status.
Thus, you may wish to conduct some research into the various legal rights and limitations associated with each traditional marriage alternative. Generally speaking, the more the couple is treated as if they were legally married, the more rights and protections they will be afforded under state and local laws.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help with Traditional Marriage Alternatives?
One aspect of marriage law is that it is constantly subject to change. Many states are in the process of updating their marriage laws to include more traditional marriage alternative options. If you need assistance with your relationship status, it’s in your best interests to speak with a qualified family law attorney immediately. A family lawyer can help determine what your rights and options are under the law, and can represent you in court if necessary.
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Last Modified: 03-28-2014 03:46 PM PDT
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