Overview of Legal Marriage

Making the choice to get married is a big step. Once that decision is made, the couple has to move forward with planning their marriage ceremony. They also have to ensure they meet all the requirements for a legal marriage.

Each state has specific laws that dictate what encompasses a legal marriage. Despite the state-to-state differences, there are some general requirements that a person must meet to be legally married. For example, in most states, both parties of the marriage must be at least 18 years old. Some states, such as Texas, allow younger residents to get married if they have parental or court permission to do so. Additionally, people who want to get married must usually be mentally competent to understand what it means to be married.

Formal Marriage

The formal marriage is one of the most common forms of marriage. This type of marriage requires that a marriage license is obtained, usually from the county clerk in their county of residence. In the past, states required each person to have a blood test done. Currently, Montana is the only state that still requires that.

When a couple gets a marriage license, they usually must have the ceremony within a certain number of days. Some states also require couples to wait for a short period between applying for a license and getting it or between getting a license and having a ceremony. For example, Wisconsin has a six day waiting period between applying for the license and getting it, but the marriage has to be completed within 30 days of issuance. Texas requires a couple to wait at least three days between the issuance of the license and the marriage, but the marriage has to be completed within 90 days of the issuance.

Oklahoma has the shortest period for couples to get married. That window is a short 10 days. Georgia is one state without a limit on how long a couple has to get married after the license is issued.

Informal Marriage

Informal marriage is only recognized in some states. This type of marriage is sometimes called a common-law marriage. Couples who want an informal marriage usually have to fill out forms stating they have a common law marriage. Some states, such as Texas, have other requirements. Informal marriages usually give the couple the same rights and protections as a formal marriage, but without having to go through the marriage license application process and formal ceremony with a qualified officiant.

Same-Sex Marriage

The laws regarding same-sex marriage are in an almost constant state of flux. This can make it difficult for same-sex couples to know what the laws are in the jurisdiction in which they live. Where same-sex marriage is legal, same-sex couples use the same process to get married as any other couple. These married couples are afforded benefits for federal programs in the same manner as opposite-sex couples.

Getting married requires proper preparation. Before anyone gets married, he or she should contact a qualified family law attorney. Prenuptial agreements and other considerations can considerably affect a marriage.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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