Marriage is a legal status or relationship where two people are united before the law. In the United States, marriage is viewed as a religious, social, and legal institution. When two people are married, they exchange vows and are issued a license. Both people are entitled to certain rights, like property rights and tax status, as well as decision making rights in the event their partner gets incapacitated.
Although there are various types of marriages, monogamy is the only type that is legally allowed in the United States. What is monogamy? It’s a relationship in which each member has only one spouse. Monogamy can be of different types, including traditional, common law, and same-sex union. Below, we’ll take a look at the different types of marriage that take place in the US.
For many centuries in the United States, the right to marry was reserved to heterosexual couples, where the members of the relationship are of the opposite sex. In 1996, Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act to legally bar people of the same sex from getting married to one another. However, this law was rescinded 19 years later in 2015 when the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the Defense of Marriage Act was a violation of the 5th Amendment. As a result, some states enacted laws to legally allow people of the same gender to marry one another. The legal requirements for the couple to receive a license vary from one state to another and each state may have its own requirements for same-sex couples.
Common Law Marriages
A common law marriage refers to a legal arrangement where spouses are legally considered to be husband and wife without formal registration such as a wedding ceremony or legal proceeding. Typically, a common law couple does not undergo a ceremony and does not have a license. Although some states do not recognize common law spouses under their laws, other states do. In states where common law is legally recognized, the spouses are entitled to the same rights that couples in traditional marriages enjoy. The requirements for marriages under this arrangement vary from one state to another, but all states consider common law marriages executed in other states as legal.
In the event of dissolution or divorce, the common law couple is likely to undergo the same legal procedure as spouses in a traditional marriage. The requirements for couples in the states where this type of relationship is legally recognized may include the following:
- The spouses must live together
- Both spouses must be of sound mind
- Each of the spouses must be at least as old as the state’s required age of consent
Some of the states where common law relationships are recognized include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Utah, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If you happen to move from any of these states after you have married through common law, the validity of your relationship will still hold in the new state even if the new state does not legally recognize such an arrangement. This is because all the 50 states of the United States have a legal obligation to recognize common law marriages executed in other states.
Union under common law is also present in Native American tribes, including the Navajo Nation. The common law couples in these tribes are allowed to hold traditional ceremonies when marrying.
To legalize your union as husband and wife under common law, you need to swear and sign an affidavit, and both spouses should declare that they are married.
These are relationships in which both members of a couple are of the same gender. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling that legalized same-sex marriages. All prohibitions about same-sex relationships that were in effect prior to this ruling were annulled by this decision, allowing American men and women to freely engage in relationships with people of their same gender. While some states such as Mississippi and Louisiana saw it appropriate to address procedural issues first before embracing the ruling, other states such as Texas, Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia embraced it immediately after the court’s decision, marrying several same-sex couples who rushed to wed immediately after the ruling.
In a nutshell, the requirements for validating marriages may vary from one state to another. Depending on your choice relationship, both you and your partner should understand your respective state’s requirements for making the relationship legal. This will help the two of you to properly understand your rights and responsibilities as a couple.