Marriage Legal Help

For some couples embarking on marriage, it makes sense to consult with an attorney. There may be debts, property, or child custody issues at play. You may only need a single attorney consultation. 

These resources provide general information about the process of hiring a family lawyer, the most common reasons couples hire attorneys, finding legal counsel in your area, and more.

Legal topics related to marriage can include:

  • State marriage requirements
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Property rights
  • Getting a marriage license
  • Marriage after divorce
  • Amending a support order before marriage
  • Child custody arrangements

If any of these legal issues are waiting for you before your marriage, you need legal advice. Don't leap into marriage without resolving problems that could derail your marriage before it begins.

Getting Married: Do You Need a Lawyer?

Not every marriage needs a family law attorney. You can usually complete the basic court forms, pay the court fees, and get the marriage license without trouble. However, there are situations when professional legal information is essential.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement, also called a “prenup" or premarital agreement, is a legal document that protects the property of the parties acquired before or during the marriage. For instance, if one person already owns a house, a prenuptial agreement can keep the house in that person's name.

States have many legal requirements for how to draft a prenup. Parties should not try to write their own. This is an area of law where attorneys may specialize. Check with your family law attorney to find someone who can write a good prenup and explain it carefully.

Prior Marriages

Couples might schedule a marriage ceremony before the divorce process from their last marriage has finished. This is a mistake. There are many steps to concluding a divorce. The parties cannot remarry until the judge signs the divorce decree.

Some issues you need to discuss with your attorney include:

  • Alimony or spousal support. Not all states award spousal support. The receiving or dependent spouse should know that remarriage usually terminates all spousal support. The paying spouse is not so fortunate. They must continue paying alimony for the duration of the court order.
  • Child custody, child support, and visitation. Child custody and support are separate from the dissolution of marriage. Even after terminating alimony, there is no effect on child support. The only way to alter any custody or support order is by showing substantially altered circumstances. Remarriage does not qualify.
  • Out-of-state or unfinalized divorce. In simple or “uncontested" divorces, couples may find it tempting to handle their own divorces without the help of an attorney. This can lead to leaving the final decree unfiled and the parties remaining married without realizing it. You should check with an attorney if you engaged in a self-help style divorce and are unsure if you are divorced. There is a legal process that can correct the error, but you must do it before you remarry.

So, while you don't need a lawyer in most situations, it's important to consult with one if you have any doubts or concerns about the legal ramifications of your marriage. For instance, those planning a destination wedding must know whether the marriage will be valid upon return to the United States and whether there are any additional steps.

Common Law Marriage

A small number of jurisdictions still recognize common law marriage. States with common law marriage include Texas, Colorado, and South Carolina.

In a common law marriage, the couple does not formally wed. Instead, they live together and “hold themselves out" as husband and wife for a statutory period. They still have to go through the divorce process to terminate their marriage.

The parties must complete the standard legal documents for a divorce, plus affidavits declaring they were residing as spouses for the statutory period. There may be other requirements under their state laws. Anyone involved in a common-law marriage should consult a family law attorney before entering another marriage.

How To Find and Work With an Attorney

You should speak with an attorney who handles family law cases if you or your fiancé have specific legal questions. Most family law attorneys also handle divorce, child custody, spousal support, and child support matters. You also want to ensure the attorney you hire is a good fit; the lawyer who helped your friend may not be right for you.

You can begin your search by reviewing FindLaw's directory of family law attorneys in your area. It also might be helpful to search your state bar association for more information. The state bar site can tell you if the attorney has had any disciplinary action against them.

You can ask at your courthouse or local legal aid office if you need low-cost legal services. Many family law offices have sliding scales or offer pro bono services for couples who need their documents reviewed before marriage.

Whatever the legal issue in your marriage, getting aid can help. Marriage is even more important than other civil law cases since it impacts your loved ones and the rest of your life.

Click on a link below to learn more about getting legal help with your marriage.

Learn About Legal Marriage Help

  • Get Legal Help With Marriage - Marriage is not just romantic. It is a legal arrangement between two people. It's important to ensure each piece of this arrangement is done correctly by getting the legal help you need.
  • Hiring a Prenup Lawyer - A guide to hiring a lawyer to draft your prenuptial agreement. This section offers several reasons why you may want to create a prenup, including keeping your finances separate and providing for children from previous relationships.
  • Guide to Hiring a Lawyer - This section offers articles and resources to help you find the right legal assistance for you and your marriage. Learn about the right questions to ask, the basics of attorney's fees, and more.
  • Types of Legal Fees - A guide to the different types of attorney's fees and fee arrangements, including consultation fees, contingency fees, flat fees, retainer fees, statutory fees, and much more.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

You may want to find legal help if you have a question about marriage laws in your state or a particular legal dispute. Keeping a marriage together requires trust, patience, communication, and a little luck. You shouldn't have to worry about legal issues, too. Get legal help with marriage today from a local family law attorney.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Many people can get married without hiring legal help
  • Marriages involving prenups, significant debt, child custody issues, and property questions may need an attorney

Get tailored advice and ask questions about getting married.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Marriage is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries (including your spouse!) to your will. Consider creating a power of attorney to ensure your spouse can access your financial accounts. Also, a health care directive lets your spouse make your medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated.

Start Planning