Legalities of Marriage

Marriage License: Here is a simple list of what to do to get your marriage license in the state of NY.

1. You can apply for your marriage license 60 days prior to your wedding.
2. Your wedding officiant can not marry you within 24 hours of getting your marriage license.
3. Bride and groom will need to go together to get the marriage license.
4. A marriage license can be obtained from any town hall in New York State and the wedding officiant can marry the couple in any town in NYS. (Exception New York City)
5. Required Identification: Picture ID, Birth Certificate, Passport, Military ID
6. Each town hall has a different charge for the marriage license, between $25 – $40
7. If a bride or groom has been divorced or widowed, they will need to bring their divorce decree or death certificate.

Name Changing: You will have to initiate the changing of your name. Just because it is listed on your marriage license does not mean that it is automatically changed. Here is a list of items you will have to change in order of importance:

Driver’s License
Social Security
Work and Payroll
Bank Accounts
Credit Card Accounts
Deeds and Titles
Loans and Mortgages
Other Licenses (Nursing, Medical, Fishing, Hunting, etc)
Business Cards
Membership Cards
Other Forms of ID

Prenuptial Agreements: The concept of prenuptial agreements is relatively new. Before the equitable distribution law was passed (around 1980 in New York), there were no guidelines for dividing possessions when a marriage dissolved. Wives were often left with nothing when wealthy husbands put everything in their names.

The new law changed that. Equitable distribution means that if and when a couple divorces, a judge will define the marital estate — all assets acquired after the marriage date and prior to the date the divorce action was filed — place a value on those assets, and divide them equitably. In long-term marriages it usually means 50-50, but not always — the ratio depends on the contributions of each spouse. For example, Krauss-Browne handled the divorce of a female fashion designer in which the husband got only 25% of the estate.

Remember that anything you own prior to marriage is separate property — you don’t need a prenuptial agreement to keep it that way. If you have property or a bank account that you want to keep in your name, leave it as is. If it’s an account, don’t deposit anything you earn during the marriage — that’s called “commingling” funds. Also, anything you inherit before or during the marriage is separate property — and so are gifts from a third party to you as an individual while you’re married.

Ideally, you should start negotiations six to eight months before the wedding, and you should sign the agreement at least a month before. Agreements should be in plain English, defining the division of assets specifically and clearly, spelling out exactly what the two of you agree is marital property and what will remain separate. You should each have separate counsel, and your lawyers should explain everything in the simplest terms. A prenuptial must be signed in the presence of a notary public.

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