Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 31: Marriage

Chapter Overviews

Getting Married  State law controls the marriage process. Couples must fulfill certain requirements before obtaining a legal marriage certificate. Marriage laws and requirements exist to ensure that couples are serious about their relationship, in an attempt to strengthen families and reduce the number of divorces.

Legal Aspects of Marriage  Although marriage requirements may vary from state to state, a marriage that is legal in one state is usually recognized in every other state. When a couple seeks to legally end their marriage, a divorce takes place. An annulment, on the other hand, is a court order that declares that a marriage never legally existed.

Common-Law Marriage  A common-law marriage is a union between two people who decide to forego the standard state marriage requirements. A couple that engages in a common-law marriage considers themselves husband and wife and lives together as a married couple. If a couple in a common-law marriage decides to part, they must obtain a legal divorce before they may remarry.

Financial Responsibilities  In the past, the husband was regarded as the head of the household and the overseer of finances. Today, both spouses are regarded as equal. This means that both partners are financially responsible for the necessities of life and other purchases either spouse makes.

Property Ownership  When two people get married their property is divided into categories known as separate property and marital property. Separate property is all property individually owned by each spouse before the marriage. Marital property is anything that the couple acquires during their marriage that they both own. State laws and divorce decrees determine who gets marital property if a marriage ends.

Decisions in a Marriage  Getting married involves many important decisions. Some couples decide to write a prenuptial agreement before they marry that outlines each spouse's responsibilities in the marriage. The law very rarely interferes in everyday family life.

Spouse Abuse  Unfortunately, domestic abuse can happen to anyone in any relationship. Generally, spouse abuse is a recurring incident that can result in a cycle of serious psychological and physical damage, or even death. Counseling, support groups, legal action, and other services are available for victims of spouse abuse.

Legal Issues for Single People in Nontraditional Relationships  Even couples that are not married but living together are bound by certain legal responsibilities and constraints. Same-sex couples are challenging traditional notions of marriage in courts and legislatures. State laws regarding civil unions vary from state to state.

Glencoe Online Learning CenterSocial Studies HomeProduct InfoSite MapContact Us

The McGraw-Hill CompaniesGlencoe