You’re engaged, congratulations!
While it is perfectly normal to be preoccupied about wedding dresses, invitation designs, number of guests, wedding rings, flowers, and catering in the early stages of your engagement, you must remember that getting married isn’t really about planning the wedding, or the wedding day itself - it’s about two people and the quality of marriage after the celebration.
The success of a marriage may be judged by how well the couple deals with critical issues such as communication, finances, parenting, and others. That’s why it’s very important for future spouses to talk about these concerns.
Furthermore, there are some legal matters that you must prepare for and settle before you set the date. To help you get started on the right foot, here are the top legal concerns to fully discuss before getting hitched.
Legal requirements for marriage
Each state has its own legal requirements for marriage. The most common is getting a valid marriage license and having an officiant licensed by the state to perform the ceremony. Some states require residency documents and blood tests as a condition to getting the licence, so check the laws of your area. Make sure there is nothing legally stopping the two of you from getting married. If you were married before, make sure you have a valid divorce decree or death certificate.
Legal requirements for destination weddings
For U.S. citizens marrying abroad, you don’t need permission of special documents from the United States. However, the country where you plan to marry may have its own special requirements. Some countries require at least 24 hours of residency or a single working day to make the marriage valid, while others require a lengthy waiting period.
You’ll also need your passports and possibly other important documents such as birth certificates, divorce decrees or death certificates. Some countries also require proof of contract - which means the couple must execute an “affidavit of eligibility to marry” - at the U.S. embassy. For your convenience, check the rules of the specific country before setting the date there.
A prenuptial or premarital agreement is done to set certain parameters about the division of property, finances and other assets of the couple in the event of a divorce. Family lawyers suggest that everyone sign a prenuptial agreement especially couples that have children or grandchildren from a previous marriage, or own a business or properties. This agreement can help couples deal with conflicts if the marriage relationship ends.
It’s also worth considering to hire their own lawyers to make certain that everything is clearly explained and to ensure that each person’s rights are protected.
Neither spouse is legally required to take the other spouse’s last name, but many couples prefer to do so for symbolic reasons. If you do change your name, you need a valid marriage certificate to update your Social Security card. You should get these important documents first to avoid confusion and facilitate future changes.
One way to avoid hassles if one spouse dies during the marriage is holding joint property. Generally, the ownership is passed on to the surviving spouse. For other assets than cash, such as bonds, real estate, and stocks, the laws vary from state to state. If the asset is held by a title, you only need a simple administrative procedure to reflect joint ownership. However, for property held by deed, such as real estate, the rules are more complex and require a separate transaction.
You may also want to keep in mind other financial issues such as pre-existing debts and tax considerations before you tie the knot.
Conclusion: Consider getting help from a legal expert
Aside from the issues mentioned above, unexpected legal questions regarding your wedding vendors and others may arise during the course of your engagement. That’s why it would be advisable to have a legal expert to help you out on every step of the way.
If you think hiring a dependable lawyer is just an added expense, LegalShield can give you access to legal protection at a rate that is easy on the pocket. Instead of billing you per transaction, you only need to pay an affordable monthly fee to get the legal advice and protection you need - from document review, to prenups and more.