A popular 1950’s movie coined the phrase, “love is a many-splendored thing.” But, ask any family lawyer and their perspective on love might not be so rosey. Despite all the potential legal pitfalls and issues with a possible break-up, love can be a wonderful thing, and marriage can be a beautiful experience. 

Although it’s not a romantic statement, falling in love isn’t the only reason to consider marriage. Lots of people can stay in love without ever tying the knot. And, they may have good reason for keeping their relationship non-marital. However, there are also many legal benefits to marriage. 

Those benefits are available only to certain types of people who qualify for marriage. Read on to find out if you are legally eligible to wed and what the legal advantages are to getting hitched. 

What is Marriage?

Marriage can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Some cultures recognize polygamy, meaning having multiple spouses. Some religions don’t recognize same-sex marriages. Some cultures accept brides who are in their teens or younger. 

But, in the United States, these situations are not consistent with recognized law. In fact, in America, marriage is typically defined as a binding, legal relationship between two consenting adults. This means that the two people are aware of the meaning of marriage and 

Once married, couples usually derive some financial benefit and have some legal protections that non-married couples don’t have. 

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL AND FINANCIAL BENEFITS OF MARRIAGE?

There are all kinds of legal and financial benefits in marriage. These are some of the most common ones: 

  • Taxes: Married couples can file taxes jointly and usually are subject to more advantageous tax brackets than non-married couples or individuals.
  • Healthcare and Visitation Rights: If one spouse is injured and hospitalized, the other spouse is automatically entitled to visit and receive information about their partner’s care. Married spouses are also usually the default person to make healthcare choices for an incapacitated spouse. Non-married partners may not legally be allowed to visit their partner or make decisions about their loved one’s care, either. 
  • Property Rights: Married couples are entitled to own real property as tenants by the entirety. This is a legal term that means the couple’s right to the property is specially protected from creditors or from one partner selling their interest in the property without the other spouse knowing. Only married couples are legally able to own property in this way. 

Who is Allowed to Get Married?

The United States has established criteria for recognizing legal marriages. That criteria includes: age, mental capacity, single (not currently married), and not closely related to your future spouse. 

In most states, the legal age to be married is 18 years old. Usually an individual who is at least 16 years old, however, may get married with parental consent. The couple must also have the ability to understand the significance of the commitment that they are making. 

As mentioned, in the United States, polygamy/bigamy is not accepted. Therefore, in order to lawfully get married in America, both partners must be single and unmarried. 

And, lastly, Americans also do not approve of incest (romantic relationships with close relatives). Close relatives, therefore, will not be allowed to marry. Siblings would not be allowed to marry, but many states also ban first cousin marriages or only allows them in special circumstances.  

Is Same-Sex Marriage Legal?

By 2019, most everyone should be aware that same-sex couples are legally entitled to get married in all 50 states in America. This means that so long as partners to a marriage are at least 18 years of age, possess the mental capacity to understand their commitment, are not closely related, and are single regardless of their sex or what gender they identify with, they may legally be married. 

How to Get Married?

Whether you choose to have a lavish affair or a small ceremony, a wedding is simply the celebration of a marriage. What makes a couple legally wed is their marriage certificate and fulfilling all of the state’s requirements to be recognized as a married couple. 

As long as the parties meet the criteria mentioned above, they may apply for a marriage license. This is usually done in your local court. The license must be completed with all of the required information including marriage history (if you’ve been married before), social security numbers, birth dates, and other identifying information. 

Once approved, the clerk will provide a marriage license. This authorizes the couple to get married. After they have had their marriage ceremony, whether a wedding or a court-house celebration, the couple signs a marriage certificate acknowledging that they are officially, legally married. 

Most states also require a state-recognized officiant (pastor, priest, or other individual who has been granted authority to marry couples) to sign off on the marriage certificate. The officiant usually performs the ceremony and then signs the certificate signifying that the couple has been lawfully married. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Married?

Rarely will a lawyer be necessary to obtain a marriage license. There may be instances in which a partner has been married before and has not officially been granted a divorce or some other issue that prevents a partner from meeting the criteria set forth in this article. In situations like that, a family lawyer may be required so that the couple can lawfully be married. 

Otherwise, you can get married so long as you meet the above requirements and go through the necessary steps to obtain a license.