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Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance is a payment that one spouse has to make to the other after getting a divorce. In most marital arrangements, one partner earns less than the other or is dependent on the other entirely for financial resources.

If a couple chooses to get a divorce, the dependent partner without their (former) partner’s financial assistance, will have to face major financial crisis or lifestyle degradation. To prevent this from happening, state laws have made a provision for the financially dependent partners, called alimony.

Financially dependent partner is entitled to receive support from their former partner either till they get back on their feet and become independent, or in some cases, forever.

Learn more about spousal support and alimony in this section.

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For children, divorce can be an extremely stressful and sad time. At any age, children may feel vulnerable, uncertain or angry at the prospect of this big change. Both parents need to ensure that the entire process is less painful for your children and that their emotional needs are taken care of. It is important to provide stability in your home and attend to your children’s needs with a positive attitude.

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When you are married, chances are good that during the marriage, you and your spouse will obtain items, property, assets, and other things (also commonly referred to as community property). Furthermore, debt is another shared aspect of the relationship. Due to this (and regardless of the amount), when you get divorced, those assets are likely going to be subject to being distributed between the two parties.

Division of property in a divorce

In a perfect world, at this point in the process, things are much easier when the parties can agree to how they will divide their assets as well as how debt will be handled. For instance, if you purchased a home while married, maybe one of spouses will wish to remain in the house as opposed to selling. Part of the property settlement agreement may be tied to the remaining spouse paying the other spouse for their half of the value of the home.

If you are unable to come to an agreement about division of assets and debts, the courts will be forced to step in to make the decision. The court may choose to approach the distribution of assets from a physical division perspective or from one where they award a percentage of the total value of the property to each party. Ultimately, when this happens (and depending upon your state laws), the courts will divide the property based upon the principles of community property or equitable distribution.

If you are subject to community property laws, all property that you and your spouse have will be divided into community and separate property. In general, separate property is that property that you had coming into the marriage (or possibly subject to a prenuptial agreement or inheritance). In this scenario, the community property is divided equally between the spouses.

If you are subject to equitable distribution, it is important to understand that equitable is not necessarily equal…it is meant to be a matter of what the court determines is fair. In this scenario, courts may even order one party to use their separate property to reach an equitable settlement for both parties.

Property division process

Property division in a divorce is accomplished through a contested process in which each party makes their case to a judge that property should be divided in a manner. In this case, the court would attempt to create an equitable division of property. Equitable distribution does not mean ‘equal’ rather it means that the court distributes marital property based on consideration of a number of factors to arrive at a fair division of property. Courts will employ a formula that takes into consideration each party’s financial status, their age, the length of the marriage and their ability to support themselves and will arrive at a division of property that attempts to reach a fair balance.  

In other situations, the couple may reach an agreement by submitting to the court a settlement agreement which outlines how property will be divided. Under these circumstances, the settlement would outline how the division would occur such as how and when certain assets should be liquidated and transferred to the respective party. Once the judgment approves the order, it becomes binding on each party.   

Strategies to divide property during divorce

Strategies to divide property during a divorce vary depending on the type of assets the couple hold and their willingness to reach an agreement on how property should be split. When attempting to reach an agreement, it is important to consider both the short-term and long-term impact of the agreement. For example, the parties may feel the agreement is fair in the short-term, but will they still hold the same opinion in the future, particularly if the couple have children who as they grow older may have different needs or if either party anticipates undergoing a drastic change in earning capacity in the future. In this sense, it is important to divide property in a way that accounts for all contingencies and is sustainable over the long term.      

It is important to note: Property division is not limited to division of  physical property, it extends to retirement funds, insurances, inheritances and even debts and liabilities. The properties and possessions of a to-be-divorce couple is divided according to the state law where they belong.

In the end, division of property can be a high tension, anxiety ridden, and emotional experience. Finding a way to settle the division of property out of court is certainly the preferred route, but when you hit a snag, having a qualified family attorney in your corner can increase the chances of ensuring that the property is divided correctly.

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Making the decision to divorce is the most important step in any divorce. It is serious and means that you are ready to end your marriage. This decision can often be clear, while other times not. Although the legal process can be stopped, engaging it can lead to a myriad of charged emotions, broken trust, and other problems. Thus, it is very important that you don’t start the divorce process until you are absolutely sure that you want to end your marriage.

A divorce is initiated through what is commonly referred to as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Irreconcilable differences are the most commonly used grounds for divorce because it negates the need to air anyone’s dirty laundry in open court. The “fault” grounds for divorce often include adultery, bigamy, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, desertion, drug addiction, conviction of a felony and impotence.

Step 1: File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage represents the formal request to the court for a divorce and outlines your position on issues such as custody of children, debts, and property, so your spouse can respond to these issues.

Step 2: File and Serve Your Documents

One your documents are prepared, bring the original signed copy of your Petition and Summons to the court clerk’s office at your local courthouse. At this point, you will pay the required filing fees, and the clerk will set up a case file. Once you receive the official file stamped documents back from the court clerk will take the Summons and Petition for a process server to be served on your spouse.

Step 3: Wait for Your Spouse to Respond:

Once served with the Petition and Summons, your spouse, will have 30 days to respond with a written document outlining their position on the case. If your spouse fails to file a response after 30 days have passed, they may be considered to be in default. If the court decides that a response will not be filed, it may issue a final ruling on the issues raised in your Petition.

Step 5: Discovery

Discovery involves the formal exchange of information between the parties. In this portion of the case, information collected will be used to examine the merits of the other party’s objections to any of the issues raised in the Petition. Further, discovery can be used to determine your spouse’s ability to pay maintenance and support and to establish the value of the marital estate.

Step 6: Trial

If a settlement cannot be reached a divorce case may require a trial whereby evidence is presented in court and testimony is taken from the parties and other witnesses on the issues being contested. At the conclusion of the trial, a final divorce judgment will be entered providing a resolution to all issues raised in the Petition and your spouse’s response. At this time, the couple is no longer married in the eyes of the law and any other obligations regarding finances or children become legally binding.

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Also called “judicial separation”, legal separation is a process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation legally. Granted in the form of a court order, the couple remain legally married during the process.

Legal separation is different from separation as it is a legally recognized status of your marriage. Thus, it requires filing documents with and appearing in court (much like the process of divorce). It is also important to note that a legal separation is viewed as an independent action and is not considered to be the first step in the divorce process.

A married couple is no longer able to cohabitate due to the breakdown in the marital relationship. Under these circumstances, the couple choose to live separately. Legal separation represents an in- between area in the law in which a couple or those in a domestic partnership is not living together as married couples or domestic partners do, but are not divorced or have not dissolved their domestic partnership yet.

Since a legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership, a legally separated couple cannot remarry or enter into a partnership with someone else. Rather a legal separation acts as a middle ground between divorce or the dissolution of a domestic partnership.

The process of legally separating

The process is somewhat similar to that of the divorce process in that the couple either requests the court to decide the terms of the legal separation, such as how assets will be divided or how child rearing and support responsibilities will be carried out.

In some cases, the couple will be able to agree on their rights and responsibilities during the separation and present the court with an agreement for approval. Regardless, if either the terms of separation are contested or uncontested, any issues decided or approved by the court will remain in effect until either the court approves a modification of terms or the couple divorces. At which time the final judgment of divorce would take precedence over the terms of the separation.

Grounds for a legal separation

In California, much like other states, a party or parties seeking legal separation must provide a legally recognized reason for the separation. Generally, legal separation may be requested based on ‘irreconcilable differences’, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage or a incurable insanity of one spouse. Just as in the case of divorce, California is a “no-fault” state, in that the court need not find that one of the parties was at fault for the the breakdown of the marriage leading to the separation. Rather, the court will only look into the question of whether the marriage is past saving as opposed to who caused the underlying problems that harmed the marital relationship.

An experienced divorce attorney can assist you when contemplating a legal separation. Further, an experienced legal separation attorney can explain the consequences of legal separation and what rights and obligations separating spouses have.

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Going through a divorce in court can be a very frustrating and costly process.  So it should not be surprising that a number of alternative processes have been become common.  Two of the most common are arbitration and mediation.  In both situations the couple will hire a third party that will help resolve their differences. Both methods can offer a relief from the nastiness of a courtroom brawl, but each is very different.  

Arbitration is like an informal court

Arbitration is a popular alternative to litigation that in many ways looks the same.  Each spouse is typically represented by an attorney and an impartial observer will decide anything that cannot be settled between the parties.  An arbitration is conducted much like a trial, but with less of the formal rules.  The arbitrator will generally be presented with all the issues that are preventing the parties from settling the divorce.  Then, the arbitrator will hear testimony and review evidence so he or she can make decisions.  The complex rules of evidence that apply in a courtroom are usually not relevant in an arbitration, and that can make it easier for spouses to get all the facts on the record.  

Couples will typically only move to litigation after negotiations have have reached a stalemate or impasse.  The good thing is an arbitrator can work around the parties’ schedule in a way a judge never would.  Getting a contested divorce before a judge can take months or even years.  Couples in arbitration can also have their arbitration in a variety of settings, such as a private office or in a home.  Little to no private information ever needs to be presented to a court.  The informal procedures can also drastically reduce the cost of hiring lawyers or experts like accountants.  Arbitrators’ decisions often cannot be appealed.  

Mediation guides the parties to an agreement

Mediation is a process where the two spouses will work with a neutral mediator who will help the spouses agree on the conditions of their divorce.  At the onset, the spouses will generally meet with the mediator who will explain the process.  After that, the mediator will conduct a series of working sessions, including some one-on-one sessions and some with both spouses, in order to pinpoint disagreements and move to common ground.  Lawyers will typically not attend these sessions and the mediator must keep everything confidential.  Mediators do not choose winners and losers the way a judge or arbitrator would.  A mediated settlement can only be obtained if both parties agree.

Mediation is a process best used by spouses that are still on reasonably good terms.  With open dialog and good-faith efforts, mediation can be quicker and less painful than an arbitration.  The divorcing spouses must be able to communicate with each other and have some level of trust.  If one party is suspected of hiding assets then mediation will probably not work.  Marriages involving abuse or child neglect are probably unsuitable for mediation as well.  Like arbitration, mediation can also be used just to solve some issues.  For example a couple could use a mediator to settle child custody issues but an arbitrator or courtroom trial to settle financial issues.  

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When it comes to legal documents, there are laws that require that parties involved in a legal action follow a clearly defined process to provide the other party with certain documents. This includes such specifics as how documents must be delivered, the timing of delivery, who is permitted to deliver those documents, and what documents and notices must be filed with the court clerk. This process is referred to as Service of Process and the record of the delivery is referred to as Proof of Service.

In general, Service of Process means that the other party must receive copies of documents filed in court by the other party. This is a critical step in the process as not serving the other party or following the appropriate steps means that the court will be unable to make any judgments or permanent orders. Once the party has received the documents as required by law, they have been properly served.

When it comes to serving documents, there are several methods that are acceptable for their delivery. It is important to note that not all methods of service can be used for all documents and processes. Thus, it is important to review state laws related to the documents being served to ensure appropriate service.

Depending upon the documents being served, common methods of acceptable service include:

  1. Personal Service

  2. Service by Mail

  3. Substituted Service

  4. Service by Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt

  5. Service by Posting

  6. Service by Certified Mail

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In every state, married couples terminate their marriage through the legal process of divorce or ‘dissolution of marriage’ in statutes.

Marriage.com has blog pages on State Divorce Laws that encompass a concise summary of the divorce legislation of all states along with the district of Columbia.

We have compiled the data from highly credible sources like statute books and updates, keeping into consideration reliability and validity factors. We ensure that the data is accurate and complete. We have used correct terminology, with certain exceptions.

Please be informed that divorce laws are not static, they are constantly changing with respect to conditions involved. Therefore, before you move forward it is necessary to check legal points that are important for your case, in divorce law book to ensure that the law has not changed. Also, don’t forget to check with your lawyer.

We provide you all the information in the most simplified manner and most-commonly used language. You may find certain texts difficult to comprehend because we have taken the laws directly form statutes and divorce law books.

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A temporary restraining order (TRO) or temporary protective order is a court order signed by a judge. It requires someone to stop harming or stalking you and is ideal for those involved in cases of domestic violence.

To obtain a TRO against someone who is abusing you, it is not necessary to have a domestic violence case pending in court.  In most states, if you are subject to domestic violence, threats of domestic violence, or stalking, you may apply for legal protection.

Ending a marriage is usually a highly charged and emotional process. Sometimes, the action is well planned in advance while other times it may be a last minute, drastic decision. One of the challenges of the period leading up to filing to end the marriage (thus kicking off the legal process) is the inability to control, or even be aware of, actions planned in advance by the moving party, to create an advantage, unbalanced or unfair scenario. For instance, prior to filing, the moving party might:

  • Max out joint credit cards.
  • Stop paying household bills.
  • Change minor children schedules.
  • Withdraw or transfer money from joint accounts to individual accounts.
  • Sell personal property or possessions from the marital home.

Once the action is filed, though, an automatic stay is triggered…thus suspending the parties from engaging certain behaviors, especially ones tied to finances, assets, property and minor children. It is important to note, though, that the automatic stays may be limited and don’t require one spouse to pay bills, support minor children, or even prevent one parent from denying the other parent access to the minor children.

Although the time it takes for the legal process of ending a marriage to finalize varies from state to state, it will generally take at least three or more months of time. During that time, it may be necessary to have temporary orders in place to address such factors as custody, visitation, support, and use of property. These orders are pendent lite orders which means “pending a final decree”.

Temporary orders are generally filed after the petition has been filed and served and are limited to matters the court can undo at a later date if necessary. For some matters, some orders prevent spouses from disposing of or selling assets until the court can address distribution of property and assets. This process is called an injunction or stay.

Temporary orders are designed to remain in effect until the divorce is finalized. Think of it as preserving the status quo until a final decision can be made or the parties are able to come to an agreement on the specific issues.

The following are examples of issues that may be addressed in a temporary order:

  • The amount of child support to be paid
  • If and who will pay spousal support
  • Custody and visitation arrangements
  • The party responsible for providing health insurance
  • Whether a guardian ad litem is needed for the children
  • Which party will be able to live in the marital home
  • Who will pay the mortgage or rent
  • How household items will be split
  • Who will be responsible for credit card payments

In essence, the only way to protect your parental and financial rights is to obtain a temporary order which outlines both party’s responsibilities during the duration of the divorce. This means that you will be required to file a motion for temporary orders and subsequently have to appear a hearing for the court to review the request. These hearings are generally heard within sixty days of filing the motion, so it is important to file the motion as soon as you are permitted (often with the Petition for Divorce). In some extreme situations, a party can request an expedited hearing within a few days of the motion being filed. For instance, if the other party stops paying bills or denies access to the minor children.

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About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Approximately 59 percent of these adoptions occur through child welfare (or foster) system whereas 26 percent are the result of international adoptions, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished by their American biological parents. Due to the frequency of adoptions, the process of adopting a child involves two main areas: a process involving a social welfare agency and adoption agency and a process involving the courts or in the case of international adoptions USCIS which will manage the adopted child’s immigration into the United States.

Read and find a number of resources on adoption procedures across the globe. This section contains information on how to adopt, process in domestic and international locations, how much an adoption costs, birth parents and relatives, along with a host of related topics. Read articles on assessing, developing, and evaluating adoption programs and services, recruiting adoptive families, preparing children and youth, supporting birth parents, obtaining and providing post-adoption services, the impact of adoption, and more.

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Child abuse is physical, emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, negligence and other forms of exploitation of children that can potentially harm their physical health, mental health, growth, development and dignity.

Children are weak, defenseless and hence are vulnerable to abuse. More than 700,000 children are subjected to child abuse annually in the U.S. In the year 2014, U.S National estimates revealed that 4 children succumbed to death per day due to injuries inflicted during abuse. These numbers have not reduced considerably since then.

Child abuse is a criminal offense. Child abuse laws have been enacted to protect children from offenders. These laws can ensure that children are treated fairly and ethically by their parents, guardians, caregivers and other acquaintances.

This section consists of detailed information about child abuse cases, pertinent laws and getting legal help for child abuse victims.

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Domestic violence and abuse impacts a large segment of the population and presents a serious social, economic and legal burden to those affected. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. At this rate, over one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men who are subjected to domestic violence and abuse.

A common misperception is that domestic violence and abuse overwhelmingly affects women, in fact men comprise a larger portion of domestic violence and abuse cases in America in addition to the high rate of incidents direct at women victims. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence data shows that  1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Given that non physical domestic abuse is much more difficult to track the numbers affected, the rates of combined domestic violence and abuse may be much higher.   

What is domestic violence and abuse?

What constitutes domestic violence and abuse can include a wide range of behavior that involves behavior by a person in a domestic setting (marriage or cohabitation) whose intent is to coerce or intimidate another person in that domestic setting using some form of abuse or physical violence. Domestic violence and abuse does not always involve a married couple and can involve a same sex couple. It can also include what is commonly referred to as family violence which includes child abuse, elder abuse, or other abuse directed at a family members.

The type of conduct that is considered domestic abuse or violence varies by state but can involve a wide range of behavior other than simply making physical contact with another person.   Domestic violence can involve what is normally considered battery and violent sexual acts. Domestic abuse may include emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that threaten or coerce another person. Abuse can include any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

If you are victim of domestic violence, it is important to hire a lawyer experienced in representing victims of domestic violence. A skilled domestic violence attorney can help, explain the rights you may have and how to best protect yourself from an abusive partner or family member.

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Devising an estate plan will help you manage your property efficiently, protect your family’s and your own interests. Estate planning entails creation of wills, living wills and trusts.

A will is a document that can be very useful in securing the future of your partner and your children, when you are longer around. Wills consist of detailed plans about how and to whom a person’s belongings will be transferred.

A living will is a document through which you can transfer your belongings to your family while you are alive. If a time comes in your life in which you are not able to communicate your wishes to your partner or your children, this will can help them get what you intended to give them. You can also specify your health care preferences and the kind of treatment you would like to get, in your living will. If you ever fall ill and are not able to express your wishes, the living will help you get the your desired form of treatment.

A trust can be created in a person’s lifetime and as well as after his death, through a will. It’s a good way to manage property and avail tax benefits.

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One of the best things you can do when you get married is ensure that you put the right things in place to protect you and your family while living and after you or your spouse passes away. Whether putting a plan in place to cover the costs associated with a funeral, your children’s college tuition, or life insurance to cover the cost of your home and living expenses, there is a tremendous peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that your family will be taken care of.

When it comes to protecting your family’s future, it most often revolves around financial security and end of life. To ensure you have the right things in place, taking time to create an estate plan can help make the process move in the right direction.

There are many different tools that you can choose from to secure your assets, property, and finances such as:

  • Wills and trusts
  • Medical directives
  • Life insurance
  • Healthcare insurance
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Savings and retirement accounts

One of the most searched for tools in family financial planning is allocating power of attorney for spouse. In the process of making a partner the power of attorney spouses encounter a number of questions, to which they need answers. Questions like- “does a spouse need a power of attorney, does a spouse automatically have power of attorney, and so on.

Knowledge of marriage rights and benefits is very critical to ensure efficient financial planning for families. Rights of married couples also include some “marriage government benefits” that they are entitled to. This section has all the essential financial planning advice that you need to secure your family’s future.

Also, there are steps you can take along the way to increase the chances of preserving what you build such as:

  • Carefully manage any risks associated with financial plans
  • Periodically review your estate plan and documents
  • Think long-term
  • Avoid chasing after financial fads
  • Live within your means
  • Pay off debt quickly

These days people take exorbitant debts to fulfill their desires. So, the terms “Debt and marriage”  are profusely searched by couples who have taken a significant amount of loan.  “Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt” is a question that people search when their partners have taken a debt. This section has all the answers to such questions and family financial planning tips to avoid any kind of financial crunch or crisis.

Regardless of the path that you choose, when it comes securing and protecting your family’s future, a little family financial planning can go a long way.

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on any given day, over 415,000 children are living in the U.S. foster care system. Nearly 108,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, and on an average, wait four years for an adoptive family. Despite the fact that foster care is frequently used, what foster care entails is often confused by the public.

The Relationship Between Foster Care and Adoption

For those not familiar with child welfare services and the adoption process, foster care, is often confused as being the final step in adoption or that a child in foster care must be adopted.  Although the two can be easily confused, foster care and an adoptee’s permanent adopted home are steps in the process of adoption. There are significant differences between the two.

Adoption is best thought of as the final stage in the adoption process whereby an adoptee ends up with a family that formally takes on a child as their legal son or daughter. Whereas in foster care, a family or an individual volunteers to provide care for a child or children whose birth parent is unable to care for them. In this sense, foster care is best viewed as the middle step between the identification of a child in need of a stable home and the finalization of the adoption. Further, a child in foster care may be and often is returned to his or her birth family.

The Basics of How Foster Care is Provided

Foster care is best described as a temporary arrangement in which a child it is no longer able to live in his home due to conditions which endanger his health, safety, or welfare. A child who is no longer able to stay in his or her home will be placed temporarily in a foster home by a child welfare agency.

Foster Care Settings

Foster care can be provided in either a family home setting or a congregated setting such as a group homes. In either case, efforts are made to normalize the experience for foster children to minimize problems with adjustment to change and to not exacerbate any existing problems the child may be experiencing.

Becoming a Foster Parent

Foster parents who accept children into their home must undergo a rigorous background checks and submit a home study to ensure that the foster home is suitable for children. Under either scenario, the goal for a child in the foster care system is reunification with their birth family, unless the child’s birth parent’s rights have been terminated. However, if the child is unable to be reunited with his or her birth parents, the foster family may petition to adopt the child or the child may be adopted by another family.

Legal Help for Foster Care

Prospective foster parents will be faced with a number of legal questions ranging from how to best position themselves to become licensed foster parents, receiving financial support while caring for a foster child, dealing with family courts in the capacity of foster parents or as prospective adopting parents. Under any of these circumstances, it is important to retain counsel experienced in the law of child welfare, foster care, and adoption.  

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Some help or guidance is always needed in life. But some cases, like of a child or an adult/elderly person( who can’t make necessary decisions or actions owing to some disability or their age), need more protective, lawful, just and appropriate help in decision making processes. A guardian is someone who is legally appointed to take decisions on behalf of above mentioned persons who are unable to do so on their own.

This section deals with the specific laws on guardianship and its various important details.

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Learn how marriage affects taxes. Most often this is the furthest thing from our minds during the wedding, but it plays a huge role on your taxes. Learn how marriage can impact your taxes, what are some of the benefits you and your spouse will receive as a married couple and much more.

When it comes to absolutes, it seems that death and taxes are two of the ones that jump out. Now that you are married, although the absolutes don’t change, there tends to be some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to your taxes.

When you get married, the date of marriage will determine what tax year you can claim as being married. According to IRS rules, as long as you are married by December 31, you are considered married for the entire tax year.

Tax benefits of marriage

Marriage brings new options (beyond filing single), including filing your taxes together (joint filing) or filing as married, but submitting individual tax forms (married filing separate). Depending upon your situation, one of these filing options may provide far better results than the other. For instance, if both work and one makes quite a bit more than the other, filing a joint return may yield better tax advantages. On the other hand, if one has significant medical debt and is able to meet deduction levels set by the IRS or has tax issues, filing separately may provide better results.

Another potential advantage of filing a joint return is the standard tax deduction. Unlike the previous ‘marriage penalty’ that reflected a lower standard deduction for a couple than if filing separately, the standard deduction rate has been adjusted to being twice that of a single filer. That said, when the combined incomes are considered, joint filers in the higher tax brackets may not realize this advantage. Moving to the higher tax brackets can also result in losing the ability to realize previous deductions available to you.  

There are other key areas that are important to understand when you are married, whether filing a joint or separate return.

  • Absent filing to claim a refund of withheld income tax, you can no longer be claimed as a dependent on your parent’s tax return if you file a joint return with your spouse.
  • If your spouse has tax liability coming into the marriage…it doesn’t become yours (although the IRS still has the ability to keep your refund if your spouse has tax liability and you file a joint return).
  • If you are unemployed and have an IRA, when you file a joint return, both parties can still make tax deductible IRA contributions. Check to see what the maximum contributions are for your tax year.
  • If you sell your home that you have owned for at least two of the past five years and it was your primary residence at least two of those years, you may gain the benefit of doubling the capital gains tax exclusion. Thus, doubling the amount that is excluded from being taxed.
  • When it comes to estate planning and gifting, spouses generally are allowed to gift each other unlimited cash and property free from gift taxes.

The moral of the story is that being married can potentially lead to benefits that you didn’t have access to when single…but, it is not an absolute. Being married isn’t the only factor, thus it is important to seek out a qualified tax professional to help you identify the best route when it comes to filing.

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Congratulations on getting married!! Are you ready to change your last name now after marriage? Not everyone is interested in changing their last names immediately after their weddings. People may want to change their names for completely different reasons. Changing a name does not have to be a chore but it does need to go through some legal procedure. So, how should one change their name after marriage? Get tips and advice on legal processes for name changes, answers to FAQ’s on name changes and more here.

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A postnup agreement is a legal contract signed after a couple gets into a civil union or marriage. So even if a couple have not signed a prenuptial agreement before their marriage, they can sign a postnuptial one for similar reasons later on.

A postnuptial agreement determines how a couple’s financial assets will be divided in case the event of divorce or separation occurs in future.It spells out the division of all property and also includes details about incurring debts, spousal or child support. Additionally, it can even address issues like division of labor at home after the marriage.

Mostly, a postnuptial agreement is considered to ensure you as well as your children (mostly likely from previous marriages) will be financially safe and secure. Learn more about post nuptials, how they work and the laws around them.

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Civil unions are considered to be the same or almost equal to that of a marriage with a legal relationship that offered some of the same rights and responsibilities of a marriage.While civil marriage takes place in a registry office and has nothing to do with religion and can be extended to same sex marriages.

Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey still distinguish civil unions from marriage. Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Vermont subsequently converted all civil unities to legal marriages.

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Cohabitation is an arrangement in which couples who are in a relationship but are not legally married live together in one residence.

Questions often arise about unmarried couples who have lived together long enough to have acquired joint assets and debts and in some cases even have children together. In fact, these couples live functionally as a married couple without being legally married.  The question of whether an unmarried couple is defined as cohabiting is important due to the fact in some states these couples are provided similar legal rights to those of a married couple. These states largely recognize common law marriage or domestic partnerships in which couples who meet the requirement of cohabitation for a certain period of time are afforded a legal status similar if not exactly on par with that of a married couple.

Depending on the state these couples enjoy certain legal rights and obligations toward each other regarding financial matters in the event the relationship ends. In fact, in some jurisdictions cohabitation agreements which specify each partner’s right upon a split are enforced. The key however to attaining this type of legal state is cohabitation as a couple which is defined generally as living together in the same residence for an extended period in an intimate relationship in that the relationship involves some form of sexual relationship and is to simply platonic. The definition of cohabitation can include to both same sex and opposite sex couples.  The primary criteria that is applies varies by state and often hinges on the length of time a couple has been living together.

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There are times when couples have the commitment of a legal marriage, but aren’t concerned with the legal aspects and benefits that are afforded by marriage. When this is what is desired, there are some states that recognize a legal relationship known as a domestic partnership.

Domestic partnerships involve two adults who have chosen to share each other’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship that involves mutual care. Historically, this was commonly associated with same-sex relationships and provided certain legal and financial protections to those couples. In some states, domestic partnerships are also extended to couples who live together (cohabitate) and in others, applies to couples who are over 62 years of age and cohabitate.

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Marriage was not restricted by age in the U.S. and was left to local customs and parental concerns. When the military age draft was lowered during World War ll, states began to lower the age of marital consent to 18. Age of Consent is an important legal requirement for marrying in the United States. This means that the individuals intending to get married are legally able to do so without the permission of their parents. The legal age of consent is 18 years in all states, although Nebraska sets the age of majority at 19 years of age.

Age of Consent is a term that establishes the age at which a person can legally agree to sexual activity. This age varies across the world and is based upon what is believed to be the minimum age when an individual has the mental and legal ability to agree to engaging sexual activities.

In general, all individuals engaging the sexual activity are expected to have attained the legal age of consent, but there are exceptions that can increase the age. Most common, these are associated with positions of authority, power and influence. In other words, due to their specific position or stature, they are held to a higher standard. Some examples of these positions include teachers, coaches, parents, managers, and others.

Age of consent laws are also an integral part of defining sexual crimes. For instance, when an individual who has attained the age of consent engages sexual activities with another who hasn’t, this can result in criminal charges.

In the United States, the age where an individual is legally allowed to engage sexual activities with anyone that is consenting and the same age or older varies 16 and 18 years. In this situation, when an individual engages sexual activity with someone under the age of consent is typically subject to crimes such as statutory rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct and other sexual crimes.

Age of marriage in the U.S.

The legal age of consent for marriage in the US varies by state, while mostly it is 18. While minors under the minimum legal age can marry under parental and jurisdiction consent.

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Once you have taken the plunge and your marriage has been legally bound, getting a copy of the document (marriage certificate)  proving your marriage is important. Unlike the marriage license, the certificate of marriage comes only after the marriage ceremony has been completed. It is this wedding certificate that proves to the world that you are legally married…as well as the document that will be required for many legal processes you will likely encounter going forward.

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Your wedding day is approaching and the days leading up to the occasion are filled with excitement and anxiety. Before you tie the knot, you should be fully aware of the emotional commitment you are making, as well as, the legal and financial consequences of your decision to marry.

The laws governing marriage vary from state to state. Nevertheless, here is a general overview of what these laws are across the country, as well as, their legal and financial implications:

The legal requirements for marriage

Before you can marry, you and your partner must obtain a marriage license authorizing you to get married in your state. This can be accomplished by making a visit to your local city hall or municipal office in the city or county where you will be getting married.

In order to obtain a marriage license, you will have to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Show proof that you are divorced or widowed: If this is not your first marriage, you will need to prove that you are legally divorced from your previous spouse or that he or she has died. To do so, you will need to provide evidence such as a copy of your divorce decree or your deceased spouse’s death certificate.
  • Meet the age requirement: In the majority of states, both parties must be at least 18 years old to marry. Exceptions include Nebraska (where you must be 19 years old) and Mississippi (where you must be 21). If either of you is under 18 years of age, you will need both written consent from your parents or legal guardians and the consent of the court.
  • Have blood tests taken: While increasingly out of the ordinary, a few states still require couples to have blood tests taken before they can get married.

Change in your marital status

After or during your wedding reception, and in the presence of at least one witness, you must sign a marriage certificate. Thereafter, you will be able to list yourself as married on legal, government, and financial documents.

A change in your marital status will come with a number of advantages, such as being entitled to be named as a beneficiary or dependent on your spouse’s healthcare, retirement, and life insurance plans, and to enjoy his or her Social Security and disability benefits. In addition, you will then be eligible for certain tax benefits and to file a joint tax return with your spouse.

Changing your name

After you are married, you can decide to take your spouse’s name, keep your own, or come up with a creative alternative. However, in most case, there will be no legal consequence should you choose to leave your name as it is.

If you desire to change your name, you should know that it does not happen automatically. Instead, you will need to contact all government agencies that have your name on file and update your Social Security card, driver’s license, insurance policies, financial accounts, etc.

Last but not the least, you will need to let others, such as your landlord, employer, school, post office, attorney, accountant, and doctors know that you have a new surname.

Responsibility for children from previous relationships

New spouses have no the legal responsibility for the support of their partner’s children from previous relationships. This responsibility lies solely with the biological parents.

On the other hand, if you decide to adopt your spouse’s children from a previous relationship, assuming that the other parent has relinquished their parental rights, you would then become the children’s legal guardian and thereby legally obliged to support and care for them.

Sharing your finances

After you are married, you and your spouse will accumulate and share assets referred to as marital property. This will include items such as:

  • Your bank accounts
  • Home
  • Car
  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Debts

Typically, any property acquired by either spouse before you got married will be considered separate property and, with the exception of gifts and inheritance, any property acquired after you got married and before you separate will be considered marital property and subject to division during divorce or separation.

When you divorce or legally separate, your marital property will be split between the two of you on an equitable basis, unless other arrangements have been specified. If one of you dies during the marriage, the surviving spouse will inherit all, or a portion of the marital property unless otherwise specified and depending on whether or not there are children involved.

Prenuptial agreements

To protect your assets during and after the marriage, a  prenuptial agreement can be used to specify:

  • How you will share property and finances during your marriage.
  • How assets and liabilities will be allocated if you divorce or separate.
  • What happens to one spouse’s estate if he or she happens to die during the marriage.
  • Any spousal support to be paid following divorce or separation.

States vary with regards to what issues a prenuptial agreement may address. The majority of states will not enforce a prenuptial agreement if it adversely affects child support, or if it was drafted fraudulently, under duress, or unfairly.

Many states adhere to the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act, which suggests how a prenuptial agreement should address the ownership of property during the course of the marriage, and how it ought to be allocated during divorce, separation, or upon the death of a spouse.

Contact an experienced family law attorney

Marriage is essentially a legal contract between two people who wish to live their lives together. It is, therefore, vital that you comprehend the legal and financial implications of marriage, with regards to your property and finances and what will happen to them should you divorce, separate, or when you or your spouse dies during the marriage.

For a better understanding of the laws governing marriage in the state in which you plan to marry, contact a local family law attorney for information and guidance.

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A marriage license is a document that is often required when two individuals intend to get married (not to be confused with a marriage certificate which is a document filed after being married). Whether or not it is required will depend upon the jurisdiction in which the marriage will happen as well as they type of marriage (e.g., same-sex, domestic partnership, common-law, etc.).

The requirements for obtaining a marriage license will also vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but usually share the following requirements. Here’s how you can get a marriage license:

  • Both parties have to be of legal age to marry (unless the state permits underage individuals to marry with the parents’ consent).

  • The ability to provide documentation to prove the identity of the parties intending to marry (e.g., birth certificate, passport, drivers’ license, etc.).

  • Both parties must not be married to anyone else. If you have been previously married, you may be required to provide proof of the divorce.

  • Both parties must have sufficient mental capacity. In many cases, simply applying for and attesting will satisfy this requirement.

 If you plan the above in advance, getting the marriage license won’t be a difficult task.

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Are you getting married? Do you wish to protect your assets and property? Are you wondering how to protect yourself from assuming potential debts of your future spouse? If yes, a prenuptial agreement can help.

Prenuptial agreement: Definition and meaning

What is a prenup or prenuptial agreement? Prenuptial agreements (also known as prenups) are contracts between two people before they tie the knot (get married).
An agreement of this nature can determine what will happen to your (and your spouse’s) assets and income if you both decide to part ways in the future (or even in case of death).
Prenuptial agreements are widely popular these days for a number of reasons. One reason could be that people are highly focused on their careers which could delay their marriage. By the time they marry, both partners have accumulated enough wealth and financial assets that call for protection. Prenuptial agreements address this issue. Plus, they are also especially valuable when one partner has children from a previous marriage. Such an agreement makes sure a spouse’s separate property goes to their own children.
Think of a prenup agreement as a mechanism to potentially avoid property, finances, assets, and debts if you end up in divorce by avoiding common state law entitlements your spouse would otherwise be entitled to. That is, if the agreement is appropriately drafted. So if you were getting excited about having the ability to circumvent state laws and fairness, don’t get too excited. Courts still analyze these agreements to ensure it is clear, understandable and justifiable. Thus, if a judge decides that a prenup is unfair, they have the ability to set it aside.

This section consists of detailed information about prenuptial agreements, laws around it and how to get one.

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A common law marriage or an informal marriage, despite its archaic nature, has been in existence since 1877.

In the United States of America, District of Columbia, South Carolina, Kansas, Montana and as many as 10 states, it stands as a recognized form of marriage, with albeit some changes and restrictions.

However, there are states like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that offer limited recognition of common law marriage.

By definition, common law marriage is a relationship where a couple that lives together, represents themselves to society as a married couple, without having been formally married or obtaining a marriage license. The cohabiting couples in such a marriage by habit and repute do not have their marriage recorded by state or religious registry.

However, living together is not a stand-alone validation factor for common law marriage.

The key requirements that validate common law marriage for partners living together include –

both individuals being 18 years of age or above, reflecting a sound adult mental health, showing an intent to marry, taking on the last name, referring to each other as spouses in public, sharing expenses and household duties, and having joint accounts.

The evidence that corroborates the intention to marry would be a written agreement between both the partners. It would also legally establish a common-law marriage.

Having said that, a practicing family law attorney is the best person to help you find answers to any questions you may have about the legal implications of common law marriage in your state.

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