Are You Legally Married?

In the US, a legal marriage usually means that the parties have been issued a marriage certificate and that an officiant has performed a marriage ceremony. Marriage requirements differ, however, in each state. To find out about the various types of marriages and what could happen when the marriage ends, read on. 

Legal Marriage Requirements

If your marriage is considered legal in one state, then all states will recognize it as legal even if the requirement for a legal marriage differs somewhat. In most states, couples must follow these rules:

  1. Be of legal age to marry, which varies from state to state with some states allowing younger people to marry with parental consent.
  2. Not be a blood relative. It varies but many states allow third cousins to marry and first cousins to marry only if the couple is too old to conceive a child. Other blood relations cannot marry under any circumstances.
  3. Not already married to someone else.
  4. Be of sound mind and not mentally incapacitated.

Is Polygamy Legal?

Every state outlaws having more than one legal spouse at a time. However, cases of polygamy are seldom prosecuted and when they are the charges are bigamy and not polygamy. All states require a legal divorce from a previous union before marrying. Often associated with certain religious sects, churches don't typically recognize polygamist marriages. If a party is prosecuted, the offense is a misdemeanor. If there is underaged marriage, abuse, or sexual slavery involved, however, felony charges are certain for offenders.

Are Common-Law Marriages Legal?

Common-law marriage means that the couple has everything they need to make a marriage except the certificate. Only certain states recognize common-law marriage, and they all have guidelines that must be followed. They vary by state, but many require that the couple live together as a couple and hold themselves to be married before their community, family, house of worship, etc.

Divorce May Be Necessary

As far as polygamy and bigamy are concerned, a legal divorce is only needed for the first marriage since all marriages after that are not considered legal marriages. However, and this can be a surprise for some couples, common-law marriages must go through a divorce process just like traditionally married couples do. However, any time minors are involved, the law will get involved to help resolve custody, visitation, and child support issues no matter what the relationship. With common-law marriages, you can add debt, spousal support, and marital assets to the items that need to be resolved with a legal parting. Speak to a family law attorney to find out more.

For more information, contact a local divorce attorney