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Marriage and Law: What to Consider When Saying 'I Do'

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on September 08, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here's something to think about ... did you do all the things you need to do before saying "I Do?" More than a ring, white dress, and flower-filled ceremony, getting married is a legal contract that two people enter into, and a partnership where love law meets marriage law. There are legal benefits and burdens to a marriage, and many things to consider before and after exchanging vows.

First things first, before walking down the aisle, make sure you walk down to the county clerk's office and file for a marriage license -- a certificate which essentially grants you and your spouse the legal right to get married (usually for a small fee). Newlyweds will also need to obtain a marriage certificate after the ceremony is complete. Other factors to consider before the wedding day: whether to sign a prenuptial agreement, how to manage finances, whether the state you are marrying in requires a blood test, and how to share property acquired before marriage.

After the honeymoon is over, here is another legal checklist of issues that should be visited by you and your partner (and possibly your lawyer too): revising estate planning insturments to include your new spouse, changing your last name, adding your spouse to your health insurance policy, financial planning for future or current children, and adoption of a spouse's child. Keeping legal inturments current to reflect your new married status will not only provide for a spouse in the event of an accident, but can also save time and money later on.

The legal benefits of marriage, and all the preparation that goes into the process can serve to make the happily ever after a little bit sweeter. Married couples not only receive tax and government benefits based on their new status, but there are also employment perks as well as consumer benefits and protections attached to the institution. Although marriages are as different as the people that enter them, familiarizing oneself with marriage law before exchanging vows is the best approach for everyone considering saying "I Do."

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