Every couple looks forward to the day they say their “I do’s.” A lot of couples prepare for their wedding day, fixing every detail with great attention.
But more than the romantic side, marriage is a binding contract entered into by two parties who have decided to live the rest of their lives together.
Apart from gaining a lifetime partner, marriage arms you with financial and legal benefits, and responsibilities single people don’t have.
And since it is a legal agreement, it is covered by specific state and federal laws.
So apart from prepping for a one-day grand event, couples should brush up on the laws that could affect their marriage.
To get you started, here are some rights and responsibilities couples should know.
Change in name
Married couples have the choice of changing their name legally. All you need to do is present your marriage certificate. It bears all the necessary details that support your change your surname into your spouse’s last name. You can do that by updating your documentation in the DMV, the Social Security office, banks, etc.
Filing of taxes
Once couples get married, they have the option to jointly or separately file federal and state tax returns. You can file Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately—it all depends on the both of you. But the IRS strongly encourages couples to file joint tax returns by giving them perks, such as one of the biggest standard deductions each year.
Wedded couples get additional rights during medical situations. These include more visits to their spouse in the hospitals, default rights when making medical decisions, especially when their partners are incapacitated.
Having marital properties
Whatever each person owns before they get married, these assets—and even debts—remain theirs. However, entering into marriage, whatever income, assets, and properties the couple earn after getting married are subject to state community property laws. This means these are jointly owned by the couple. And if worse comes to worst (divorce, death, etc.), the surviving spouse has the right to half of the joint asset or property.
Maintaining fiduciary duties
Any relationship should be founded on trust. That’s why legally married couples have a fiduciary duty to each other. This means honesty throughout their married life, may it be about finances, properties, a criminal past, etc. If found guilty of fraud, the marriage can be annulled.
Respect begets respect
While respect is not exclusive to married couples, treating your spouse with utmost respect should one’s top priority in a couple. Many states favor the aggrieved party in this situation—may it be engaging in certain marital misconduct, such as abandonment, abuse, or adultery. Any of these can be grounds for divorce and may even affect alimony and property division.
These are just some general things couples should keep in mind and by heart. However, some states have unique state laws covering marriage. Consulting a local lawyer about marriage laws in your state can help couples know their rights and responsibilities for a happy and fruitful marriage.