Control of Money in a Marriage

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Are the General Legal Requirements for Marriage?

Every state in the United States may have different provisions governing marriages. In every state, same-sex marriage is legal.

However, marriage may still only occur between two individuals. Although each state may differ regarding the rules governing marriage, the basic and general marriage requirements typically include the following:

  • Each of the parties must be of legal age to marry;
    • If they are under the legal age, they must obtain parental consent;
  • Each party must currently be unmarried;
    • If either of the parties has been previously married, they must be legally divorced;
  • The couple must obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office;
  • Each of the parties must have sufficient mental capacity to understand the significance and legal implications of a marriage; and
  • Each party must not be closely related to each other.

Generally, the legal age at which an individual can marry is eighteen years old. The rules on this issue may also vary by state.

Children as young as fifteen years of age can get married with the consent of their parents in certain states. There is only one state, Nebraska, that sets the legal age at nineteen.

The State of Mississippi requires both of the individuals to be over the age of twenty-one in order to marry without parental consent. If either of the parties has been previously divorced, they may be required to provide a copy of their divorce decree in order to receive a marriage license.

This will depend on the state in which the individual wishes to remarry. In addition, in order to obtain a marriage license, an individual does not have to be a resident of the state or county in which they are getting married.

As noted above, they may be required to provide proof of their identity as well as proof of any previous divorces. In certain states, there is a waiting period between the time the individuals apply for a marriage license and when they actually receive the license.

The majority of states, however, do not have this type of waiting period. Some states only require a waiting period for non-residents.

Are There Any Guidelines Regarding the Control of Money in a Marriage?

There are not many federal or state guidelines that address the control of money in a marriage. Essentially, married couples are free to manage their money as they desire according to their own needs and with little interference from the government.

The majority of state laws, in general, state that a married couple:

  • Has no support requirement: This means that if one spouse earns more money than the other spouse, they have no legal obligation to contribute money to the lesser-earning spouse;
  • Has no reporting requirement: This means that spouses are not required to report their income to each other; and
  • Has no joint bank account requirement: This means that married individuals are not required to open a joint bank account.

It is very rare that the law will interfere with a couple’s use of their own money. The law will only affect a married couple’s finance management in very specific situations.

One example of this is a law that affects one spouse’s ability to claim employment benefits on behalf of their spouse. In addition, the law may intervene in situations that involve shared retirement plans and the sharing of debt between spouses.

What Are the Differences Between Community Property and Separate Property?

There are laws on the books that govern marital property. Marital property includes any assets or funds that were obtained over the course of a marriage.

These laws typically come into place in cases of separation or divorce instead of during the marriage. Marital property may be referred to as community property or shared property.

It may also be further differentiated as separate property. Community property is property that is owned by both spouses.

It is important to note that different states have different laws governing how property is classified during a marriage. Generally, any property that the married couple acquired while they were married to one another is classified as community property.

In the event the couple separates or divorces, each of the spouses will own an undivided share of the community property. There are nine states that recognize community property, including:

  • Arizona;
  • California;
  • Idaho;
  • Louisiana;
  • Nevada;
  • New Mexico;
  • Texas;
  • Washington; and
  • Wisconsin.

Separate property cannot be divided when a couple divorces. Examples of separate property may include, but are not limited to:

  • Property that was obtained before the marriage;
  • Property that was acquired after the marriage;
  • Property that was received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage; or
  • Any property that the spouses have agreed to be separate property and designated as such in a prenuptial agreement.

A divorce will begin the process of determining what property belongs only to one of the spouses and what property belongs to both of the parties in a shared property state. Income that is earned prior to or after the marriage is usually considered separate property and will not be split between the divorcing parties.

Income that was earned during a marriage is usually considered shared property. This means it will be split equally between the divorcing spouses.

What Does Concealment of Assets Mean?

In the event a married couple decides to divorce, one legal issue that may arise is hidden assets in a divorce case. The concealment of assets may occur in situations where one of the parties intentionally misrepresents or hides the existence of some form of property or some amount of money during divorce proceedings.

For example, if one of the spouses transfers money from one bank account to a hidden or separate bank account for the purpose of deception, it may be considered hiding or concealing assets. In some cases, failing to declare the existence of property during a divorce may also be considered conduct that rises to the level of asset concealment.

In certain situations, the simple failure to declare the existence of property during a divorce may be considered the concealment of assets. This conduct typically must be intentional.

Additionally, there are other legal consequences that may result from being held liable for concealment of assets. This may include legal consequences, such as:

  • Being issued a contempt order;
  • Being required to pay a monetary damages award; or
  • Facing criminal penalties.

What Are Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements?

Prenuptial agreements are agreements that couples enter into prior to their marriage. They outline how the couple’s assets and debts will be divided if they divorce.

Prenuptial agreements require each spouse to fully disclose their finances. In general, they must be in writing and signed before the marriage, or they will not be valid.

Postnuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements because they can cover all of the same issues. A postnuptial agreement, however, is signed after the couple marries.

These agreements allow married couples to determine how issues will be handled if they divorce.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help with Marriage Financial Issues?

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to finances in your marriage, it is important to consult with a prenuptial agreement attorney. Your attorney can address your questions as well as advise you of the laws in your state.

If you are interested in drafting or finalizing a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, your lawyer can do so. These agreements can help determine the division of property if you divorce.

Law Library Disclaimer


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer