Marriage is a voluntary, private contract between two adults. While it is a personal and emotional commitment, it is also a legal relationship that changes the legal status of both parties. A family law attorney from The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC in Charleston and Hurricane, West Virginia, can help you to understand the legal technicalities of marriage.
The legal rights and obligations associated with marriage have evolved with our society and today are the same for both spouses. Each state has its own rules about marriage, but there are some uniform principles, including:
- Who Can Marry Whom. West Virginia prohibits marriage between brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, parent and child, aunt and uncle, as well as first and double cousins.
- Age Requirements. The minimum age requirement is 18 years of age. Marriage at 16 years or older if written parental consent is provided.
There are several legal benefits to marriage. There are both federal and state laws available only to married people. Other benefits include Social Security benefits, inheritance rights, property rights, the ability to sue third parties for the wrongful death of a spouse or loss of consortium, and the right to make medical decisions on a spouse’s behalf.
Common Law Marriage
Many couples believe they will achieve a common law marriage and be entitled to the legal benefits and obligations of married couples if they live together for a significant period of time. It is not quite that simple. West Virginia does not recognize common law marriages.
Premarital and Cohabitation Agreements
Couples who are considering marriage or living together may benefit from talking to a family law attorney about the advantages of a premarital agreement (also called prenuptial agreement or antenuptial agreement) or a cohabitation agreement. Although not very romantic, premarital agreements are a useful tool for defining the legal relationships between two people, particularly as they relate to property. Generally, the intent of the agreement is to create a framework for handling money and property issues during the marriage or relationship and to create a roadmap for property division should the relationship eventually terminate.
West Virginia will enforce a properly executed premarital agreement. Agreements about child support are generally not acceptable. In addition, West Virginia will not uphold reements entered under fraud or duress.
Getting married is one of the most important things people do. Hopefully, it reflects a deep emotional commitment because it also truly changes the participants’ legal statuses. By understanding your rights and obligations as a married person you may more fully appreciate the step you are taking. Before you marry or move in with your partner, consult a family law attorney at The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC to identify any future issues that you need to resolve now to keep you and your beloved on the path of matrimonial or relationship bliss.
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