Many people think of marriage as a chance to bond with their soulmate forever, through sickness and health until death do us part. However, from a legal standpoint, marriage is a contract that carries certain rights as well as numerous responsibilities and obligations.
Before you embark on a lifetime of marital bliss, you should know what you are getting into from a legal point of view. It's always a good idea to know what your rights and responsibilities are, especially if some of them are still in effect after a divorce or the death of your spouse.
As a married couple, you have several rights that single people do not have. Many of these are financial in nature. For example, as a married couple, you now have the ability to file a joint federal or state tax return. You also have the ability to open a joint bank account and have other accounts, such as investment funds, listed jointly.
Your insurance rates may get better, as well. Many health, auto, and home insurers offer a "marital" rate that can bring costs down.
As a married couple, each one of you also has a right to a share of marital property in case of a divorce. Marital property is any money or assets that were gotten while married. So, your personal property that you had going into the marriage stays yours, but any assets accrued while married are going to be split. (In Georgia, it will be an equitable split, not a 50/50).
In case your spouse dies, as a widower, you also have certain rights. You can sue for wrongful death and you have the right to inherit property from your spouse. Also, if your spouse was receiving Social Security, disability, workman's compensation, or pension payment, you can now receive those benefits.
Finally, you also have a right to a limited marital communications privilege, meaning that with a few exceptions, you have the right to refuse to testify about any confidential communications between yourself and your spouse.
The biggest responsibility that you have is to treat your spouse with respect. It goes without saying that you should not cheat on your spouse or abuse them in any way. If a spouse can prove that you abused them, committed adultery, or abandoned them, it could be grounds for a fault-based divorce. If that's the case, I hope you have deep pockets because you're going to need them!
You also have a fiduciary responsibility to your spouse, which is another way of saying they should be able to trust you. Before the marriage, you should be able to trust that statements made by your partner concerning their finances, criminal record, or marital history are correct. If not, it could be grounds for divorce later when the truth comes out.
Likewise, during the marriage, everything needs to be above board. You shouldn't be hiding assets or spending sums of money without your spouse knowing about it. Financial misconduct is a breach of your fiduciary duty and can lead to divorce.
Knowing your marital rights and responsibilities as a couple is an important step towards not only finding happiness but keeping it.
If you are in the Atlanta metro area, specifically Henry, Clayton, or Fayette counties, and have concerns about your marriage, contact Family Matters Law Group and come in for a consultation. We will listen to your story and let you know what your options are.