Understanding what is a legal marriage is essential for anyone considering entering into a marital union or navigating the complexities of family law. A legal marriage is more than just a romantic commitment; it is a formal and binding contract recognized by the law, entailing specific rights, responsibilities, and protections for both spouses. GetLegal is here to provide clarity on what constitutes a legal marriage, guiding you through the legal requirements, implications, and benefits associated with this significant life event.

Whether you’re contemplating marriage, seeking to validate the legality of your current marital status, or in need of legal advice regarding marriage-related matters, GetLegal offers comprehensive resources and expert guidance to help you navigate the intricacies of family law with confidence. Let’s delve into the intricacies of what is a legal marriage and how understanding this concept can empower you to make informed decisions about your relationship and future.

What is a Legal Marriage?

A legal marriage is a formal and binding union between two individuals that is recognized and sanctioned by the government or legal authority in a particular jurisdiction. It entails meeting specific legal requirements, such as obtaining a marriage license, undergoing a ceremony officiated by a qualified individual (such as a religious leader or a civil official), and registering the marriage with the appropriate government agency. Once these requirements are fulfilled, the couple is considered legally married and is entitled to various rights, benefits, and responsibilities under the law.

These may include property rights, inheritance rights, tax benefits, access to spousal benefits under government programs, and the ability to make medical and financial decisions on each other’s behalf. Additionally, what is a legal marriage provides a framework for resolving disputes and enforcing rights in the event of divorce or separation, offering both spouses legal protections and assurances within the marital relationship.

What is a Legal Marriage – The Benefits

When exploring the concept of what is a legal marriage, it’s essential to understand not only the legal requirements and formalities involved but also the myriad benefits it offers to the individuals involved. Let us know with the benefits mentioned below:

  • Employment benefits: Health insurance, Family leave and Bereavement leave
  • Family benefits:
    • Adoption rights and joint foster care rights
    • The entitlement to a share of jointly held assets in the event of a divorce or separation
  • Government benefits:
    • Social Security income (If you are caring for a child under the age of sixteen or if you are at least sixty-two, you may be eligible to receive your spouse’s Social Security benefits.)
    • Medicare
    • Disability benefits
    • VA benefits and public assistance
  • Tax and estate planning benefits:
    • The marital tax deduction (which exempts you from paying taxes on any assets you transfer to your spouse at any time)
    • The ability to submit joint tax returns, which is quite advantageous If one partner has a much higher income than the other
    • The exemption from estate taxes that allows you to inherit your spouse’s assets
  • Medical and death benefits:
    • The right to visit your spouse in the hospital
    • The right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse
    • The right to participate in burial and funeral arrangements
  • Consumer benefits: Discounts to families or couples

The Validation of Same Sex Marriage

In the last twenty years, same-sex couples in the US have been granted greater legal recognition for their right to marry. The 2013 Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman was overturned by the US Supreme Court. As a result of that ruling, same-sex couples living in states where same-sex marriage was legal were eligible to receive federal benefits. Following its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that same-sex couples are entitled to all other marital rights, including the ability to marry, as well as any other associated financial and legal privileges.

The Court used the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to determine that states could not refuse to recognize a marriage between same-sex couples if they were allowed that privilege. It also concluded that states could not refuse to acknowledge same-sex relationships that have been successfully completed lawfully in another state. Because of this ruling, same-sex unions are now legal throughout the nation. Before the Obergefell ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex unions were legal in 37 states.

Common Law Marriage

Common law marriages are those that are recognized by state law without the requirement for a license, ceremony, or further documentation. The significance of being legally married, which denotes that a couple has formally united in line with the laws and regulations governing marriage in their country or region, is included in the list of benefits of marriage for women. This includes common law marriages, in which a man and a woman present themselves or believe they are husband and wife and therefore get the legal advantages of being married.

Any two people who consider themselves to be married or who merely behave as such might recognize and admit a common law marriage as such; it is not necessary for it to endure for a set period of time. It appears that only seven states—Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas—recognized common law marriage as of 2019. Common law marriages are also recognized in the District of Columba. Common-law unions are recognized in New Hampshire only for the restricted purpose of probate.

Domestic Partnership

Before being permitted to wed, same-sex couples frequently formed domestic partnerships, sometimes known as civil unions. These arrangements have certain advantages over marriage, including what benefits marriage offers to women. A domestic partnership, as contrast to a common law marriage or what is a legal marriage, is usually a formal legal arrangement that needs to be registered in order to be recognized. The genders of the participants in a domestic partnership are not important; nonetheless, they must be unrelated to one another, over the age of 18, single, and live together or share a permanent residence.

When certain jurisdictions, like Washington, started allowing same-sex marriages, what did it mean to be married legally? Legally, the majority of domestic relationships that were registered with the state became marriages. Among the benefits provided to spouses, domestic partners may be eligible for health insurance or medical leave; eligibility may differ depending on local laws. When certain states, like Washington, started allowing same-sex marriages, the majority of domestic partnerships that were registered with the state were legally transformed to marriages.

To guarantee fair treatment and protection in their relationship, partners frequently bargain conditions in domestic partnership agreements that are comparable to those found in marriages.