Different states have different requirements. Generally, before couples decide to wed, they must first obtain a marriage license from the county clerk. A marriage license is granted so long as both parties meet the age requirement. Most states require both parties be 18 years or older, or to otherwise obtain consent from a parent or judge.

A judge can consent to an underage marriage if the woman is pregnant so long as the couple can prove they can financially support themselves. The majority of states also require a couple marry within 30 days after a marriage license is issued.

What Types of Marriages are Legal?

In order for a marriage to be recognized by law, it must be between two consenting adults (or a minor whose legal guardian or a judge has consented to the marriage). Until 2015, only marriage between a male and female was recognized by all fifty states. But the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015, which means that same-sex marriage is legal and recognized by every state. 

What are Some Benefits of Marriage?

Besides (hopefully) having a life-partner, there are many legal benefits to marriage, discussed below.

  • Tax Benefits: Unlimited marital tax deduction is the biggest tax benefit (where a person can give assets to his or her spouse with reduced or no tax on the transfer). Further, married couples can file joint income tax returns at the state and federal levels. They can also create a “family partnership” under federal tax laws. This allows couples to divide business income among family members.
  • Estate Planning Benefits: Married couples have the benefit of being able to inherit a share of your spouse’s estate. From a tax standpoint, you can also receive an exemption from estate and gift taxes for property that you give or leave your spouse. If you’re married, you are also permitted to create life trusts that are only allowed for married couples, such as a marital deduction trust, which creates a federal estate tax break.
  • Government Benefits: If either spouse doesn’t qualify for social security benefits, the non-receiving spouse can receive the other spouse’s benefit. A spouse can also receive Medicare and disability benefits for his or her spouse. If one spouse is a veteran, the other may be able to receive veterans and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education and medical care.
  • Health, Medical, and Dental Benefits: Various treatment benefits and packages may be available for spouses. In addition, if your spouse is hospitalized, a spouse can visit during restricted hours and make medical decisions on an incapacitated partner’s behalf.
  • Employment Benefits: Married couples can obtain insurance benefit through one spouse’s employer. If the spouse with employment benefits dies, the other spouse can receive wages, workers’ compensation, and retirement plan benefits of the deceased spouse.
  • Family Benefits: Married persons often have priority over single individuals when it comes to matters like filing for adoption, foster care, or divisions of property. If the couple eventually divorces, the couple may have to share the marital property, and one spouse may be able to receive child and spousal support depending on the circumstances.
  • Housing Benefits: Families are the only group that are permitted to live in neighborhoods zoned for “families only.” Spouses can also sign residential leases on behalf of their partner.
  • Consumer Benefits: These may include eligibility for family rates regarding health, automobile, and other types of insurance, eligibility for school and tuition discounts, and other buyer’s benefits.
  • Lawsuit Benefits: A spouse can sue a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium.

There are additional benefits that married couples enjoy, both individually and as a couple. Many of those benefits vary by state.

Should I Consult an Attorney for Advice on the Benefits of Marriage?

The legal benefits of marriage depend on many factors and are specific to your state. If you need advice on marriage laws and would like to learn more about your rights after marriage, consult a family law attorney. A skilled family law lawyer can explain how marriage benefits apply to you, and can represent you in court if necessary.