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What actual legal agreements are made by signing a marriage certificate?

Indianapolis, IN |

My girlfriend and I are in the process of getting married later this year. We're both in our early 30s and and have a way of showing our independent streaks from time to time. To avoid financial arguments, we have already verbally agreed to run a "three account" system in marriage. That is, keeping separate asset and liability accounts for "him", "her", and "ours". This is probably not standard by law, so we're OK with documenting that with, ideally, some simple language written out on paper. But, it got us thinking of what else comes "standard" with a signing of a marriage certificate that we may want to adapt in writing to better suit us? Does any "list" of agreements being made exist, state by state perhaps?

Attorney Answers 1

Posted

Do you mean a prenuptial agreement? A marriage certificate is what you get from the county that you get married in to show that the two of you are able to be married, etc. A prenuptial agreement would outline the intent you have going into marriage. Usually, prenups include provisions for what happens to assets and debts acquired during marriage. It can also waive or limit spousal support, or include special circumstances that the parties agree on. There aren't other "standard" provisions, aside from boilerplate paragraphs regarding certain parts of the law. Probably would be best to consult with an attorney for a prenup agreement as it an have major ramifications at divorce.

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6 comments

Asker

Posted

I don't mean a pre-nup per se... I know that those can get intricate. But I mean what "agreements" come along with signatures on a marriage certificate? After all, those are legal documents too, right?

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Posted

Marriage certificates show that you voluntarily are married and that you agree to not marry someone else at the same time. While marriages are contracts, it does not include any provisions on managing your money or otherwise.

Asker

Posted

OK. How then do states get involved in splitting assets 50/50, determining child custody, etc.? If the marriage certificate itself has no provisions, where do these other requirements/rights/etc. come from?

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Posted

Those are state laws. Property rights of married couples vary state by state, some are community property and some are equitable distribution states. There are certain laws that apply to couples who are married by common law, which means that they don't actually have a marriage certificate and are considered to be married according to certain provisions in the law. You don't need to be married to have children and to be involved in child custody, and it has its own set of laws.

Asker

Posted

Ah, I see. Thanks for the help so far. Other than the 2 areas you've named so far (property rights, child custody rights) are there any other "common" areas of state or even federal laws where being married or not married has an impact?

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Jenn Yan Wen Fei

Posted

I'm sorry, but the answer to your question would take a very long time, and I'm not even sure that would answer your question. There are many areas in civil, probate, criminal and family law, so essentially: being married or unmarried has an impact on many, many "common" areas of the law.

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