In the United States, each state may differ on the provisions for marriage. In all fifty states, same-sex marriage is legal, but a marriage may still only occur between two people. Although each state may differ on the provisions for marriage, the following are the basic and general marriage requirements:
- Each party must be of legal age to marry; or, if under the legal age, obtain parental consent;
- Each party must currently be unmarried; if either party has been previously married, they must be legally divorced;
- The couple must obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office;
- Each party must have sufficient mental capacity to understand the significance and legal implications of marriage; and
- Each party must not be closely related to each other.
In general, the legal age in which you can marry is eighteen years old. The rules vary from state to state, although children aged as young as fifteen can marry with the consent of their parents in some states. Nebraska is the only state to have set the legal age to nineteen, while Mississippi requires both parties to be over the age of 21 to marry without any parental consent.
If either party has been previously divorced, they may need to provide a copy of the divorce decree in order to receive a marriage license. This depends on the state in which you wish to remarry. Additionally, in order to obtain a marriage license, you do not need to be a resident of the state or county in which you are getting married. Generally, you will only need a license from that locality. You will need to provide proof of your identity in addition to proof of any divorces.
Some states have a waiting period between the time of applying for a marriage license, and actually receiving said license. However, most states have no such waiting period, and some only require a waiting period for nonresidents.
There are very few state and federal guidelines regarding the control of money in a marriage. Married couples are essentially free to manage their money as they wish in accordance to their own needs, and with very little government interference. Most state laws generally state that a married couple:
- Has no support requirement. This means that if one partner makes more money than the other, they have no legal obligation to contribute money to their 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 spouses are not required to open a joint or shared bank account.
The law will very rarely interfere with a couple’s use of their own money. In fact, the law only affects married couples’ finance management in very specific circumstances. An example of this would be some laws that may affect a spouse’s ability to claim employment benefits on behalf of their spouse. Additionally, the law may intervene in circumstances involving shared retirement plans and the sharing of debt between spouses.
There are laws in place governing marital property, or any assets or funds that were obtained over the court of a marriage. These laws usually come into play in instances of separation or divorce, rather than during a marriage. Marital property may either be referred to as shared property or community property, and can be further differentiated as separate property.
Simply put, community property is property that is owned by both spouses. It is important to note that states have different laws regarding how property is classified during marriage. However, in general, any property that a married couple acquired while married to each other is considered community property. In the event of a separation or divorce, each spouse owns an undivided share of the community property.
There are nine states that recognize community property:
- New Mexico;
- Washington; and
Separate property cannot be divided upon divorce. Some examples of separate property include:
- Property obtained before the marriage, or acquired after;
- Property received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage; or
- Any properties that the spouses have agreed to be separate property, and designated as such in a prenuptial agreement.
Divorce begins the process of determining which property belongs solely to one spouse, and which property belongs to both parties in shared property states. Income that is earned before or after the marriage is typically considered separate property and does not need to be split between the divorcing parties.
Income earned during the marriage is generally considered shared property and is to be split equally between the divorcing parties. Because of the complexity of these determinations, state and federal laws govern the process.
A skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney can assist in any legal issues regarding finances in your marriage. Additionally, they can assist in drafting and finalizing a prenuptial agreement that may help determine the division of finances in the event of a divorce.
Further, an experienced family law attorney can inform you of your state’s laws regarding finances, as well as advise you of your best legal course of action if you have any issues. Thus, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are facing any issues regarding the control of money in a marriage.