Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 31: Marriage

Cases and Resources

Getting Married
Legal Aspects of Marriage
Common-Law Marriage
Financial Responsibilities
Property Ownership
Decisions in a Marriage
Spouse Abuse
Legal Issues for Single People in Nontraditional Relationships

Getting Married
Marriage: An Overview
Read an overview of this legal concept. Click on the links on the right side of the screen to learn more about federal law, state law, and landmark cases concerning marriage.

Marriage Requirements
Each state has different requirements for a couple to fulfill before a legal marriage can take place. Read through some common questions about these steps. Is a blood test required in your state?

Marriage Laws in Each State and Territory
Now explore this table to take a closer look at the marriage laws in your state. What steps must be taken before a marriage is legal in your state? How does this compare to the steps that must be taken in other states across the country?

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Legal Aspects of Marriage
Reynolds v. United States
In this 1878 case, a Mormon man challenged Utah 's ban on polygamy, claiming it violated his first amendment right to free exercise of religion. Read the opinion to find out why the Court ruled against him.

United States v. Windsor
U.S. v. Windsor is a case where the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Read this article about the implications of the U.S. v. Windsor ruling. The court ruled that the federal government must treat same-sex couples that are legally married as the same as opposite-sex married couples, but did not decide if same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. States are therefore still free to allow or ban same-sex marriage. Why did the majority say the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional? How did the dissenting justices respond?

Marriages can be annulled for several reasons. Read this article explaining what annulment means and the reasons permitted by law to obtain an annulment in the United States.

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Common-Law Marriage
Demystifying Common-Law Marriage
Common-law marriage is a serious union and is not easy to enter into in the United States. Once two people are married under common law, however, it is a binding marriage recognized by all the states.

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Financial Responsibilities
Debts and Taxes
Explore questions and answers about debts and taxes during marriage.

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Property Ownership
Who Owns What?
Between a married couple, property may be jointly owned or property may be owned by only one spouse. This article explains property ownership laws as well as the difference between community property and separate property.

Marital Money Matters
Read about community property acquired during marriage at

Equitable Distribution
Most states divide property at the end of a marriage according to equitable distribution. Read a definition of this term as well as the factors that a court may consider in distributing the marital property. Why is each factor included in this list? Do you think any factors should be added or removed from this list?

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Decisions in a Marriage
Premarital Agreements
Read about premarital agreements. This site gives an overview of premarital agreements and the advantages and disadvantages of signing such an agreement.

Changing Your Name
Married couples must decide if they will change their names upon marriage. Read the options available to couples and one woman's concern that she will lose her identity upon changing her name.

Name Change Laws
Examine the laws in your state regarding name changes after marriage. Compare the law in your state to the laws in other states. Some states make name changes much easier than others. Why do you think this is this case?

Privileged Communication
This explanation, including examples, of spousal privileged communication describes the interest in keeping marital relationships confidential. Why would the government allow marriage confidentiality even if it means important evidence will never be revealed?

Spousal Right to Inheritance
In almost all states, you cannot disinherit a spouse. Why do you think the law does not allow a person to be left with no property or inheritance from his or her spouse?

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Spouse Abuse
Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook
This handbook includes links to organizations, like Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice, that offer more information and assistance on domestic violence. It also provides valuable details about domestic violence and ways to get help.

Domestic Violence Warning Signs
Domestic violence victims often do not seek help. It is important to know the signs that someone may be a victim of violence and needs assistance. Review these warning signs to become more aware of those suffering from violence at home.

Violence Against Women Act of 1994
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is meant to protect victims of domestic violence or stalking. Examine provisions in this act to discover exactly how the act protects victims.

Intimate Homicide Trends
Analyze the Department of Justice statistics on trends of homicide in intimate relationships. Did intimate homicides increase or decrease over the past years? Why do you think this happened? Is domestic violence still a problem?

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
If spouse abuse happens to you or someone that you know, you need to seek help. Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to learn more about abuse in families and national and state organizations that can help.

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Legal Issues for Single People In Nontraditional Relationships
Living Together Contracts
When creating a contract between unmarried people who live together, specific concerns must be addressed. What issues must be considered? How would you handle some of these issues?

Unmarried Couples and the Law
Visit this site to learn more about unmarried couples and legal issues. Palimony, payments to a partner after a break-up, is the recognition of property rights and benefits between cohabiting partners under certain circumstances.

Marvin v. Marvin
Read the full text of the 1976 California Supreme Court decision that recognized the property rights of an unmarried couple who ended their relationship after living together for many years. What are the reasons the court gives for its decision? Do you agree?

Same-Sex Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships
The issue of allowing same-sex people to marry generates debate among many Americans. Questions about religion, morality, and practicality often arise. Look through this extensive collection of articles on same-sex marriages, on all sides of the issue, and decide where you stand.

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