The Marriage Test

By: Johnette Duff

Love should not blind a couple to the realities of their legal status of husband and wife, for they are bound by an unwritten contract of marriage governed by the local laws, the country/state they live in and the decisions of the judiciary. Every bride and groom must learn that the state is at the altar with them.

Why is it that You would never sign a contract without reading it or seeking an attorney's advice but for those about to marry, they have never been told how important the fine print is? No options are offered, no negotiation allowed, and no warranties extended, express or implied, when you say “I do.”

If all the terms were fully disclosed, who knows if you would sign on the dotted line without further negotiations? To know if wake the test below;

The Marriage Test

  • Do you know how much debts or obligations your spouse has before marriage? And how can that impact your pocketbook after marriage?

  • Do you know what interest the country says your spouse has in the income-producing (i.e. interests, dividends, rents) assets you owned before marriage?

  • Do you know if your marriage is the victim, or potential victim, of the “marriage penalty tax” in the Internal Revenue Code?

  • If you move to another state after your marriage, do you know how the assets you own can be affected?
  • If this is a remarriage for either of you, do you know how benefits from a prior marriage, such as alimony, social security benefits, pensions, retirement benefits, medical insurance, will be affected by your new legal status?

  • If you or your spouse have children from a prior marriage, did you know that some states differentiate between children of a current marriage and children from a prior marriage when someone dies without a will?

You may believe the idea of a premarital agreement is unromantic, but marriage itself is a contract between man, woman and the state. Often, it isn't until death or dissolution of the relationship that couples find how intrusive the state-controlled marriage laws can be.

The state's marriage contract is influenced by old-fashioned assumptions about the American family, assumptions that have little basis in today's reality. No matter how distasteful this control is, our intimate personal relationships are regulated by duties and responsibilities determined by the legislatures and the courts.

Marriage, even in the midst of the changes in our society today, is here to stay. For those whose faith in the institution of marriage remains hopeful, the secret to success is knowledge of the legal and financial ramifications of the union.

An understanding of how assets acquired in marriage are owned, both during the marriage and upon death or dissolution, is fundamental. The fifty states are divided into separate and community property states. However, within each state, the rules vary widely and are continually reevaluated as society demands.

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