Save yourself two hundred dollars an hour.
While you may think marriage is all about romance, passion, and cake, there are some governmental fine points that need to be accounted for. For the majority of states, marriage begins once the ceremony ends. However, a few will let you slip in an annulment if things haven’t been consummated yet.
Ceremonial marriages are the most common way to get hitched. In a ceremonial marriage, you present the marriage license to an authorized state official (e.g., judge, court clerk, or clergy member). The official will then perform the ceremony and issue a marriage certificate. A promise to marry is all that’s required in the ceremony. After that, you’re free to include or exclude anything you want.
Common-law marriages are only recognized by a few states. It’s not enough for you to live with someone for an extended period of time in order to be considered in a common-law marriage. You and your mate have to present yourselves as husband and wife to all that cross your path. Even so, odds are your state doesn’t allow common-law marriages due to the potential for misunderstandings and fraud, so get with the program and print a program (wedding program, that is).
Other types of marriages that may be legal include the proxy marriage (someone stands in for a partner that is unable to be physically present due to prison or military duty), confidential marriages (no witnesses are required), and marriages of convenience (the underlying reason for the relationship isn’t love).
Marriages that aren’t allowed are ones that result from fraud, occur between close relatives, or include underage individuals.
While it is expected for a married couple to live together, it is not legally required. But don’t think that’s a free pass for extracurricular activities. Adultery is illegal in many states.
Not getting enough? Or any? There’s hope. Or help. If your spouse snubs all sexual attempts (without good cause), you can use “constructive abandonment” as grounds for divorce. Hopefully, it’ll never get this far. May I suggest doing something other than raising your eyebrows to get her in the mood?
Can pillow talk stay just between you and your mate? You bet. In most states, either spouse can refuse to testify against each other or discuss their private conversations. Unless she’s really mad at you. Or it’s really embarrassing. Then you’re probably out of luck.
What’s mine is mine! Prenuptial agreements.
A prenuptial agreement expresses how a couple will divide property, obtain inheritances, define spousal support, and carve up businesses when their marriage ends. Not a nice conversation, but could be important if your last name is Getty, Rockefeller, or Hilton.
Couples sometimes include personal preferences into the prenups as well. You specify things like who will do the dishes, the frequency of sexual activities expected, and how your children will be educated. As long as you don’t specify anything illegal or contrary to public policy, feel free to include whatever you want. Keep in mind, however, these preferences may be hard to enforce, let alone be agreed to in the first place. Good luck!
Just be sure the agreement is in writing and drafted with a lawyer or a well-written template. In most states, oral prenuptial agreements are not valid. Even if you tape-record her saying “blow jobs until I die,” you won’t have a chance in court.
The Name Game. Her name? Your name? Whose name?
Some of the legal last name options your bride can take include:
- She keeps her name as is
- She takes your name
- She takes your name socially, but maintains her maiden name professionally
- She takes both names (with or without a hyphen)
- She combines both names to create a new last name
Just make sure the proper authorities are notified.
How flexible are you? You can always take her name. Yeah, right. In fact, according to Men's Health, 42 percent of men say they’d break off the engagement if their fiancée insisted on a hyphenated last name.
Your marriage certificate supersedes all other documents as identification. Keep that in mind when you get pulled over for speeding and asked for ID. Just whip out the marriage license and say either: “I’m racing home to my wife” or “I’m racing away from my wife.” You might just get a police escort.
Here’s the ring.
That’s what she thinks.
Unlike birthday or holiday gifts, courts usually view engagement rings as a conditional gift that only vests with the recipient when a marriage actually takes place. If the marriage fails to occur, the vesting also fails. In these instances, the person who gives the ring should expect it back, unless he broke the engagement without legal justification (e.g., he cheated with another woman).
To increase your rights to get the rock back if things go rocky, avoid proposing on normally gift-giving days, including birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas. And if you want to be doubly protected, work some “conditional gift” language in the proposal itself. Hey, no one ever said legalese makes for romance. For even more insurance, say all of this in front of others who can serve as witnesses for your defense. Or at your funeral.
Women have been known to accuse their mates of breach of contract if they didn’t marry them. By now, most states have laws in place to prevent these suits. But there are still a few places that allow pain and suffering charges to be filed against a third party (e.g., his mistress) who caused the breakup. Did someone say “meow?”
For more legal information, visit Nolo.