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Marriage and Divorce FAQ

What Is The Legal Definition Of Marriage?

Marriage is defined as a civil contract between two people who meet the legal requirements for getting married established by the state, which vary from state to state.  Generally, to be married, two people must be of opposite gender. However, some states are in the process of changing the different sex requirement.

Do Both Parties To A Premarital Agreement Need A Lawyer?

Not necessarily, but the benefits of having one are knowing that the contract is prepared correctly and that you have made an informed decision. The attorney will also be able to guide you in writing an agreement that is most mutually beneficial for both parties. Also, a prenuptial agreement prepared by an attorney is more likely to be enforceable because it is written in proper legal terms.

Are Blood Tests Required To Get Married?

This depends on the state in which the wedding is taking place, because the rules vary from state to state. Numerous states ended premarital blood tests and/or physical exams, but some do require tests for illnesses such as rubella, tuberculosis, and venereal disease. In addition, since the boost in HIV and AIDS, many states call for marrying parties to be offered an HIV test and/or information on accessibility of AIDS tests. Currently no states mandate a premarital HIV/AIDS test.

Is One Spouse Liable For The Debts The Other Incurred Before The Marriage?

This depends on the state in which the married couple lives, but in general the answer is no. In states where community property (property owned in common by both parties) is not acknowledged, such debts belong to the spouse who incurred them. However, a spouse may, in an extraordinary situation, become legally responsible for the other spouse`s premarital debts if in a state that does recognize community property.

If people choose to live together instead of getting married, should they have a contract?

Choosing to have or not have a contract is between those two people. If a legal contract is entered into, it is enforceable in the courts of most states. Preferably, have the contract written instead of verbal because a written contract is easier for the courts to enforce than a verbal contract is. Deciding who pays what bills is an issue where a contract is sometimes used.

What Exactly Does It Mean To Be Divorced?

If you are divorced it means that a judge has signed a “dissolution of marriage” declaring that you are no longer legally married to your spouse.  Just as getting married is a “legal” act so is a divorce.

My Husband And I Do Not Make Much Money And We Really Don't Own Anything Of Much Value. Is There A Simplified Way For Us To Get Divorced?

It depends.  Some states offer a simplified version of divorce that may be available to you.  In the states that do, it is usually required that you and your husband have been married for a short period, such as five years or under, have no children, only have a small amount of debt and do not own a home.

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)?

A QDRO is a court order that directs the administrator of a pension plan to give a certain portion of an employee’s pension to his/her non-employee ex-spouse after the divorce is final.

Who can issue a QDRO?

Any state agency or instrumentality with the authority to issue judgments, decrees, or orders or to approve property settlement agreements can issue a QDRO.

Who determines whether an order in a QDRO?

Under federal law, the administrator of the retirement plan that provides the benefits affected by the order determines if an order is a QDRO.

Can a QDRO cover more than one plan?

A QDRO can assign rights to retirement benefits under more than one retirement plan of the same or different employers as long as each plan and the assignment of benefit rights under each plan are clearly specified.

Is there any particular information that a domestic relations order must contain in order to qualify as a QDRO under ERISA?

Yes, a QDRO must contain the following information:

  • The name and mailing address of the employee spouse as well as the spouse who is to receive the benefit.
  • The name of the plan that the order is referring to.
  • The total amount or percentage (or the method to calculate it) of the benefit to be paid to spouse who is receiving the benefit.
  • The total number of payments or period of time that the order stipulates.