Getting married is an exciting and momentous occasion, but it’s also a legal contract between two people. In the US, marriage laws vary by state, and it’s important to understand the legal requirements and obligations that come with marriage. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to marriage laws in the US.
This blog post is part of the Legal Framework in the US series. For an entire overview of the legal Framework in the US, please visit our main blog post here.
Marriage License Requirements
To get married in the US, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license. The requirements for obtaining a marriage license vary by state, but typically, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, provide identification, and pay a fee. Some states require a waiting period between obtaining the license and getting married. Additionally, some states may require blood tests or proof of residency.
Legal requirements to getting married
To get married in the US, there are certain legal requirements that must be met. These requirements can vary depending on the state in which you plan to get married, but there are some general requirements that are applicable nationwide.
Firstly, you and your partner must be of legal age to get married. In most states, this means that you must be at least 18 years old. However, some states allow minors to get married with the consent of their parents or legal guardians.
Secondly, you and your partner must not be closely related. In the US, it is illegal to marry a close relative such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, or child. The laws regarding marriage between cousins vary by state.
Thirdly, you will need to obtain a marriage license from the state in which you plan to get married. This license is a legal document that allows you to get married and must be obtained before the wedding ceremony takes place. To obtain a marriage license, you will need to provide identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and pay a fee.
Finally, you will need to have a wedding ceremony that is performed by a person authorized to conduct marriages in the state where the ceremony takes place. This can be a judge, a religious official, or a civil officiant.
It’s important to note that the legal requirements for marriage can vary by state, so it’s important to check the specific requirements in the state where you plan to get married.
Common Law Marriage
In some states, couples can be considered married without obtaining a marriage license through something called common law marriage. To be considered married under common law, the couple must meet certain requirements, such as living together for a certain amount of time and holding themselves out as married. However, not all states recognize common law marriage, and the requirements vary by state.
Marriage Ceremony Requirements
Once you have obtained a marriage license, you’ll need to have a ceremony to make the marriage official. The requirements for a marriage ceremony vary by state, but typically, you’ll need to have a licensed officiant perform the ceremony and have at least one witness. Some states have additional requirements, such as requiring the ceremony to take place in a specific location or requiring the couple to exchange certain vows.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. This ruling made marriage equality the law of the land, and all states must now allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and have their marriages recognized.
Marriage Rights and Obligations
Marriage comes with legal rights and obligations for both spouses. These rights and obligations vary by state, but some common ones include:
- The right to make medical decisions for each other
- The right to inherit from each other
- The obligation to support each other financially
- The obligation to divide property and assets in the event of a divorce
Legal Name change after marriage
In the US, changing your legal name after getting married is not a requirement. However, many people choose to change their last name to their spouse’s last name as a way of symbolizing their union and creating a sense of family unity.
To change your name after getting married, you will need to obtain a certified copy of your marriage license from the state where you were married. You will then need to update your name on all legal documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, social security card, and bank accounts. This can be a time-consuming process, but it is relatively straightforward.
It’s important to note that if you choose not to change your name after getting married, you may need to provide your marriage certificate as proof of your legal name change in certain situations, such as when applying for a passport or filing your taxes.
Overall, whether or not you choose to change your legal name after getting married is a personal decision. There is no legal requirement to do so, but it can be a meaningful way to signify your commitment to your spouse and create a sense of family unity.
Unfortunately, not all marriages last forever, and sometimes divorce is necessary. Divorce laws vary by state, but typically, you’ll need to meet certain residency requirements and file a petition for divorce. Divorces can be contested or uncontested, and the process can be complex and emotional.
Q: What is the minimum age to get married in the US? A: The minimum age to get married in the US is typically 18, but some states allow minors to get married with parental consent or a court order.
Q: Do all states recognize common law marriage? A: No, not all states recognize common law marriage. The requirements for common law marriage vary by state.
Q: Can same-sex couples get married in all 50 states? A: Yes, same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.
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