There are many romantic notions surrounding the institution of marriage – and that is how it should be. However, from a family law perspective, we must also remember that marriage is a legal contract with significant legal ramifications for both parties. It is a set of rights and obligations that will change the way the two people live and conduct their financial and legal affairs.
Once you’re married, you receive a number of benefits, including tax benefits, estate planning benefits, government benefits like Social Security, employment benefits, decision-making benefits (such as the right to make medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf), financial support, and consumer benefits. Marriage also entails several financial responsibilities. These include financial support for children, liability for certain kinds of family expenses, sharing income and property acquired during the marriage, and financial responsibility for your spouse. You also cannot be compelled to testify against your spouse in a court of law.
The benefits of prenuptial agreements
Aside from these considerations, the changes that will have the longest-lasting consequences, even if your marriage ultimately ends in divorce, are those relating to finances and property. It is highly advisable to draw up a prenuptial agreement detailing how to divide marital property, assets, and joint debts, how alimony is to be dealt with, and restrictions on inheritances, among other things. Some people are reluctant to sign prenuptial agreements, but there are many legal benefits connected to doing so. If you don’t draw up a prenuptial agreement, then your affairs will be managed according to state or federal ‘default’ laws relating to marital property, which may not suit your specific circumstances. It is always best to have a definite agreement in place, pertaining to the specifics of your marriage and your shared or individually-owned property.
Westover Law Group is a company of family law attorneys serving Southern California. Contact us to see how we can help you with the legal affairs relating to your marriage, and other family law questions.