American marriage law

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In the United States, a marriage is a contract. However, unlike an ordinary contract, consent of the state is required to dissolve or modify a marriage contract.

Jurisdiction[edit | edit source]

The terms and obligations of a marriage contract are governed by state laws.

Marriage requirements[edit | edit source]

3 are the requirements for marriage:

1. Capacity

    • state of mind
    • age (in most jurisdictions, parental consent is needed if a party is under 18)
    • no bigamy (only 2 parties allowed)
    • no incest

2. a marriage license from the county clerk; this is granted in a local court; in most states, you cannot wait over 180 days for the ceremony requirement.

3. a ceremony; most states require 3 days after waiting after the marriage license. A witness is needed.

Types of marriages[edit | edit source]

There are 4 types of marriages that are of concern to American lawyers:

1. Common law marriage: based on mutual consent of 2 parties without a ceremony or witness. The evidence for this marriage is long-term co-habitation of the couple.

2. Putative marriage: this protects an under-age or bigamous marriage in favor of the unaware spouse. This marriage requires (1) good faith of the unknowing spouse, (2) a marriage ceremony, & (3) co-habitation of the spouses.

3. Proxy marriage: an agent (proxy) attends the marriage ceremony on behalf of 1 or both spouses.

4. Same-sex marriage

UMDA[edit | edit source]

No-fault divorce was not an option for divorcing couples until the Uniform Marriage Divorce Act (UMDA, 1970).

Section 402 of that UMDA states: "The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interest of the child."[1]

References[edit | edit source]