Cases and Resources
Chapter 31: Marriage
Legal Aspects of Marriage
Decisions in a Marriage
Legal Issues for Single
People in Nontraditional Relationships
Read an overview of this legal concept. Click on the links
on the right side of the screen to learn more about federal
law, state law, and landmark cases concerning marriage.
Each state has different requirements for a couple to fulfill
before a legal marriage can take place. Read through some
common questions about these steps. Is a blood test required
in your state?
Laws in Each State and Territory
Now explore this table to take a closer look at the marriage
laws in your state. What steps must be taken before a marriage
is legal in your state? How does this compare to the steps
that must be taken in other states across the country?
There is a concern among some Americans about the high divorce
rates in this country. Some states are taking measures to
make premarital counseling a part of obtaining a marriage
license. Read this short article explaining both sides of
this issue and decide with which side you agree.
Aspects of Marriage
What is the age requirement to marry in your state? Visit
this site to compare the different legal aspects of the age
Defense of Marriage Act
Read a summary and the text of the Defense of Marriage
Act. This legislation is meant to prevent the legalization
of marriage between same-sex people. What are the strongest
arguments for this bill? What are the strongest arguments
against this bill?
Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving DOMA
Read this statement released by the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. What does the Attorney General say regarding the Department of Justice’s position on defending the Defense of Marriage Act?
Marriages can be annulled for several reasons. Read this article
explaining what annulment means and the reasons permitted
by law to obtain an annulment in the United States.
Someone who marries more than one person, while still married
to one or more other people, is a polygamist. If you try to
marry somebody and you are already married, the later marriages
are considered invalid. Read the facts about polygamy.
That Recognize Common-Law Marriage
Not every state recognizes common-law marriage. Examine this
description of common-law marriage and a summary of the state
laws in those states that do recognize this type of marriage.
Common-law marriage is a serious union and is not easy to
enter into in the United States. Once two people are married
under common law, however, it is a binding marriage recognized
by all the states.
Learn more about arranged marriages and the differing opinions
on this type of marriage. What are the arguments supporting
arranged marriages? What are the arguments opposing arranged
marriages? How do opinions change in different locations throughout
Basics for Newlyweds
After marriage, newlyweds should start planning for financial
security immediately. Read some of the financial responsibilities
that newlyweds need to consider and ways to prepare for the
Debts and Taxes
Explore questions and answers about debts and taxes during marriage.
Between a married couple, property may be jointly owned or
property may be owned by only one spouse. This article explains
property ownership laws as well as the difference between
community property and separate property.
Read about community property acquired during marriage at Nolo.
Most states divide property at the end of a marriage according
to equitable distribution. Read a definition of this term
as well as the factors that a court may consider in distributing
the marital property. Why is each factor included in this
list? Do you think any factors should be added or removed
from this list?
in a Marriage
Read about premarital agreements. This site gives an overview
of premarital agreements and the advantages and disadvantages
of signing such an agreement.
Look at the prenuptial agreement form for your state. What
information must be given in the agreement? Compare the form
from your state with forms from other states. How are the
standard forms similar or different?
Married couples must decide if they will change their names
upon marriage. Read the options available to couples and one
woman’s concern that she will lose her identity upon
changing her name.
Examine the laws in your state regarding name changes after
marriage. Compare the law in your state to the laws in other
states. Some states make name changes much easier than others.
Why do you think this is this case?
This explanation, including examples, of spousal privileged
communication describes the interest in keeping marital relationships
confidential. Why would the government allow marriage confidentiality
even if it means important evidence will never be revealed?
Right to Inheritance
In almost all states, you cannot disinherit a spouse. Why
do you think the law does not allow a person to be left with
no property or inheritance from his or her spouse?
Look at the law of inheritance for a surviving spouse in the
state of North Carolina. What rights does this state give
to the surviving spouse? Do surviving spouses automatically
inherit a share of the deceased spouse’s estate?
Violence Awareness Handbook
This handbook, including links to organizations with more
information and assistance on domestic violence, provides
valuable details about domestic violence and ways to get help.
Violence Warning Signs
Domestic violence victims often do not seek help. It is important
to know the signs that someone may be a victim of violence
and needs assistance. Review these warning signs to become
more aware of those suffering from violence at home.
Against Women Act of 1994
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is meant to
protect victims of domestic violence or stalking. Examine
provisions in this act to discover exactly how the act protects
Visit the National Organization for Women’s Violence
Against Women page for legislative updates, statistics, and
more. Choose an issue and write out the arguments on both
Analyze the Department of Justice statistics on trends of
homicide in intimate relationships. Did intimate homicides
increase or decrease over the past years? Why do you think
this happened? Is domestic violence still a problem?
Rape of a spouse only recently became a crime. Read this article
about spousal rape. Why is the rape of a husband or wife different
from other types of rape? How does a woman know if she has
been raped by her husband?
Coalition Against Domestic Violence
If spouse abuse happens to you or someone that you know, you
need to seek help. Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic
Violence to learn more about abuse in families and national
and state organizations that can help.
Issues for Single People In Nontraditional Relationships
Learn more about cohabitation agreements and why an unmarried
couple living together may choose to sign one of these.
Look at a standard form for creating a cohabitation agreement
between a same-sex or different-sex couple. What information
does the form require? Compare the forms used by different
When creating a contract between unmarried people who live
together, specific concerns must be addressed. What issues
must be considered? How would you handle some of these issues?
Couples and the Law
Visit this site to learn more about unmarried couples and
legal issues. Palimony, payments to a partner after a break-up,
is the recognition of property rights and benefits between
cohabiting partners under certain circumstances.
Unmarried Couples Living Together
Read this summary of legal issues that frequently affect unmarried couples who live together.
Read the full text of the 1976 California Supreme Court decision
that recognized the property rights of an unmarried couple
who ended their relationship after living together for many
years. What are the reasons the court gives for its decision?
Do you agree?
Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships
The issue of allowing same-sex people to marry generates debate
among many Americans. Questions about religion, morality,
and practicality often arise. Look through this extensive
collection of articles on same-sex marriages, on all sides
of the issue, and decide where you stand.