Couple holding hands at their wedding

Considerations Before You
Get Married in California

Law Office of Shelly Jean John March 25, 2022

Getting married is a life-changing event and a lifelong commitment. However, many people make the decision to walk down the aisle without considering all of the legal and financial complexities of marriage. Not knowing what to expect after you obtain your marriage license and what rights and responsibilities you have as a spouse can significantly increase your risk of divorce.

As you may know, a successful marriage in California requires a great deal of work and dedication from both spouses. It also requires both parties to make certain considerations to protect themselves both legally and financially.

As an experienced family law attorney at the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I serve clients in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and the rest of California with all kinds of family law matters, including marriage and divorce.

Questions to Ask Before the Wedding

If you are thinking of committing for life, there are certain issues to think about and questions to ask before you get married. Asking the following questions before the wedding can help you build a foundation for a successful marriage:

  1. Have we met the legal requirements for getting married in California? People who wish to get married in California must meet specific legal requirements imposed by state law. One of them is that both parties to the marriage must be of appropriate age. In California, people can get married if they are at least 18 years old. For minors, California law requires parental consent. Before the wedding, people need to ask a county clerk to issue a marriage license.

  2. How will we manage and divide our assets? Under California law, all assets acquired during the marriage are considered “community property” and would be split between the spouses equally in the event of divorce. The only exception is property acquired by spouses by inheritance or gift. In addition, both spouses are equally responsible for the debts they incur during the marriage.

  3. Should we sign a prenuptial agreement? While prenuptial agreements are not mandatory under California law, spouses can voluntarily agree to create a prenup prior to the marriage. A prenup can cover a wide range of issues, including the division of assets in the event of divorce.

  4. Should we seek legal counsel before getting married? While there is no legal obligation to hire an attorney prior to the marriage, seeking legal counsel before the wedding can be beneficial as the parties will have an opportunity to discuss and understand their rights and obligations.

Marriage Rights & Benefits

Being married brings both legal and financial benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Married spouses are granted the status of next of kin

  • A married individual has legal rights in the event of their partner’s death

  • Having children while married makes issues regarding paternity less complicated

  • Married individuals are entitled to a marital tax deduction

  • Being married brings pre-retirement death benefits

  • Getting married gives you a right to enroll in a health insurance plan

  • Being married comes with Individual Retirement Account (IRA) benefits

If you would like to discuss other potential benefits of marriage and want to understand your rights as a married spouse in California, consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney.

Responsibilities of Marriage in California

Many people do not think about this when they propose to their significant other or say “I do,” but marriage comes with a lot of responsibilities. First and foremost, spouses owe each other fiduciary duties when they get married. A fiduciary duty means that a spouse must act in their spouse’s interests. Other responsibilities of marriage include:

  • Financial support for children

  • Liability for certain marital expenses

  • Sharing property and income acquired during the marriage

  • Financially supporting your spouse if the marriage ends in divorce

These are only a few of the responsibilities and obligations married spouses have to each other when they get married in California.

Skilled Legal Counsel You Can Trust

If you are considering getting married, reach out to legal counsel to discuss your rights and obligations. As a skilled family law attorney serving clients in Ontario and Riverside, California, I help people make sure that they consider all financial and legal issues that may arise during the marriage. I also assist clients considering divorce in Ontario, Riverside, and throughout San Bernardino and Riverside counties. No matter where you live in California, set up a consultation today to discuss your particular case.