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Hi,

I was curious, my 65 year old mother is dating a man. He is interested in marriage. He has much less in terms of assets than her. An attorney told her "there is not enough paper in the world to make a secure prenup that is lawsuit proof". She & I had a discussion that her friends in Florida have similar circumstances where you have an older couple that have separate children & they dont want to complicate inheritance to their children, risk assets in a divorce, or mix money.

Her friend in Florida had a Rabbi (they are Jewish), perform a wedding ceremony without officiating a state marriage license, so they ceremony was religious in nature only.

My question is if a marriage ceremony without a marriage license is "legally" binding agreement in terms of a divorce or in a death. Are her assets safe, are his safe, are they still completely separate (as long as they don’t mix funds)?

So, in terms of the law, is a person who gets a religious ceremony without a state license married in the eyes of the state?

Thanks,
Rich

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Yeesh! And here I spent 7 years and learned to read several languages!

catanpirate (Nov. 11, 2008 @ 12:42p) |

I spoke to a client of mine who is a shyster divorce lawyer (best way to describe him). Our family lawyer should be get... (more)

RichTJ99 (Nov. 12, 2008 @ 8:17a) |

Yeah nobody should get engaged until they have spent at least 1 year together and know the sesonal stressing and the non... (more)

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Pics?

OP Said: "my 65 year old mother"

ReticentRancor Said: Pics?


No Thank you.

Shahhere

Is this not the right place? It has nothing to do with religion & everything to do with $$$.

EDIT: haha, I just got the pics joke. I didnt know i could pick up a guy for her on FW.

It's not legally binding unless it is a legal (State) marriage. A religious ceremony means nothing to the State without a license

So in terms of her getting married where she & her current boyfriend are concerned, they are 'married' but in the eyes of the state, they are not married.

If they got religiously 'divorced' they it would mean nothing legally. Neither could go after the other's assets? They are completely safe in regards to finances that are not in a joint account?

Sorry to repeat myself but I just would hate for her to get married & have this guy try to 'take' her in court. Not to say he would as he is a nice guy.

parastar said: A religious ceremony means nothing to the State without a license

I would agree unless the OP's mother lives in a state where common-law marriage still exists. According to wiki Florida got rid of them in 1968, so that should not be an issue.

BTW, if they do not get legally married it's probably worth it for them to get living wills/medical powers of attorney/some other legal document so that there are no issues with hospital visitation, medical decision making, etc.

A large factor in common law marriage is whether or not the couple lived and represented themselves as husband and wife. You need to ask a family law attorney licensed to practice in their state.

parastar said: It's not legally binding unless it is a legal (State) marriage. A religious ceremony means nothing to the State without a licenseI don't know if that's the case in Florida, but a marriage without a license IS valid in New York; I suspect that's the case in most places.

LH2004 said: parastar said: It's not legally binding unless it is a legal (State) marriage. A religious ceremony means nothing to the State without a licenseI don't know if that's the case in Florida, but a marriage without a license IS valid in New York; I suspect that's the case in most places.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_license#United_States

"Every state in the United States has a requirement for marriage licenses to be obtained. A marriage is not valid if the marriage ceremony is performed without a marriage license being previously obtained."

Obviously a wikipedia article is NOT real legal advice, so it's certainly worth consulting a lawyer about this. Still, I'm skeptical that a religious ceremony with no marriage license would have any legal significance.

ppatin said: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_license#United_States

"Every state in the United States has a requirement for marriage licenses to be obtained. A marriage is not valid if the marriage ceremony is performed without a marriage license being previously obtained."

Obviously a wikipedia article is NOT real legal advice, so it's certainly worth consulting a lawyer about this. Still, I'm skeptical that a religious ceremony with no marriage license would have any legal significance.
I don't know where they came up with that -- it doesn't cite any source -- but this was specifically covered in my New York bar review course (which is the extent of my knowledge of family law).

No one has ever penetrated the Massey prenup. Harvard Law devotes an entire semester to it.
/Intolerable Cruelty.

It's not binding. I'm a minister.

Consult a marital/divorce lawyer, period. All state laws are different regarding definition of "marriage". Commonlaw marriage rules may come into play. The whole consultation might only take an hour and cost a couple hundred bucks - well worth it.

ppatin said: Obviously a wikipedia article is NOT real legal advice, so it's certainly worth consulting a lawyer about this. Still, I'm skeptical that a religious ceremony with no marriage license would have any legal significance.That's the very definition of common-law marriage, a legally recognized marriage without a legally recognized ceremony. Common-law marriages are only allowed in certain states I believe ... so the advice that you need to consult a lawyer in Florida is the correct advice.

Beckles said: ppatin said: Obviously a wikipedia article is NOT real legal advice, so it's certainly worth consulting a lawyer about this. Still, I'm skeptical that a religious ceremony with no marriage license would have any legal significance.That's the very definition of common-law marriage, a legally recognized marriage without a legally recognized ceremony.No. A marriage without a license is valid in at least New York, South Carolina, Connecticut, Arkansas, Washington, Texas and Maryland; most of those do not recognize common law marriage. It's a separate issue.

A Florida case, In re Litzky's Estate, 296 So. 2d 638 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 1974) does hold that a marriage in Florida requires substantial compliance with the license requirement (though another case, Metropolitan Dade Cty. v. Shelton, 375 So. 2d 32 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1979), upheld a marriage with an invalid license where the parties had good reason to think it was valid). New Jersey, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Alabama, Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona also don't recognize marriages without a license. Most other states have probably never addressed the issue.

But that doesn't completely settle the issue. New York, at least, recognizes marriages that would be valid under New York law even if they failed to comply with technical requirements under the law of the place where performed, so, depending on the location of a person's property and other issues, entering into an unlicensed marriage in Florida might indeed have the effects on property rights that they were trying to avoid.

Of course, the time to worry about such things is before you take those vows in front of witnesses, etc.

I think Florida was mentioned in the context of some friends. There was no mentioning about where the person getting married lives.

So, the common-law marriage is certainly a possibility. Even with the "no license" ceremony, if they end up living together for several years, having joint accounts, presenting themselves as husband and wife, etc. this can be recognized as a marriage by some states.

It doesn't even have to be a marriage. Am I the only one old enough to remember the origins of "Holy MarvinMony" (aka palimony)?

aleck said: I think Florida was mentioned in the context of some friends. There was no mentioning about where the person getting married lives.

So, the common-law marriage is certainly a possibility. Even with the "no license" ceremony, if they end up living together for several years, having joint accounts, presenting themselves as husband and wife, etc. this can be recognized as a marriage by some states.


Except that Florida abolished common law marriage several decades ago.

So if she went to Florida to have the ceremony performed but lived full time in NY, what would that mean? NY recognizing the florida marriage as a real one?

RichTJ99 said: So if she went to Florida to have the ceremony performed but lived full time in NY, what would that mean? NY recognizing the florida marriage as a real one?

It seems that New York would recognize the marriage.

catanpirate said: I'm a minister.
Do you have c-arrrr-emonies?

kamalktk said: catanpirate said: I'm a minister.
Do you have c-arrrr-emonies?
That was a real stretch kamalktk, but a little green for you.

RaidersAndBud said: kamalktk said: catanpirate said: I'm a minister.
Do you have c-arrrr-emonies?
That was a real stretch kamalktk, but a little green for you.

I kept trying and failing to think of something better.

I'm thinking of a counter-joke myself and nothing comes to mind...

YARRR!

Bankgeek said: RichTJ99 said: So if she went to Florida to have the ceremony performed but lived full time in NY, what would that mean? NY recognizing the florida marriage as a real one?

It seems that New York would recognize the marriage.

I'm not a lawyer, but...
It doesn't seem like you even need to live in New York to get the coverage there. Just standing in the courts.

Also keep in mind that representing yourselves as married in a common-law state may just get you legally married everywhere. Who wants to have to worry about the local legal marriage customs when traveling?

sechs said: Bankgeek said: RichTJ99 said: So if she went to Florida to have the ceremony performed but lived full time in NY, what would that mean? NY recognizing the florida marriage as a real one?It seems that New York would recognize the marriage.I'm not a lawyer, but...
It doesn't seem like you even need to live in New York to get the coverage there. Just standing in the courts.
Basically, yeah. It's a little more complicated, because, depending on the closeness of the interests of different states to different aspects of whatever is in dispute, a New York court might apply a different state's laws, and a different state might apply New York law, on particular issues. The whole thing is also complicated by what effect the parties' intention might have -- if you don't intend to get married, and that's why you failed to get a marriage license, the ceremony may not be effective, though it probably is if you intend to be married for religious purposes.

it's complex.

some states allow any willful, joint expression of an intent to be married as legally binding. of course this only becomes an issue when one spouse seeks support or a division of community property (where applicable).

it's also the same in the immigration context, as many people around the world are married but never register the marriage civilly.

it might be different if both parties were fully aware that the ceremony was intended to have zero legal effect on the respective rights of the parties.

there is no black and white answer to this question.

Just the fact that this many knowledgeable people can't come to any solid conclusion means that you probably need to get a lawyer. Plus family law really differs a great deal state to state. As an attorney who previously did a little family law, I can personally attest to the need for you to get specific advice from a knowledgeable expert.

catanpirate said: It's not binding. I'm a minister.Anyone here can become a minister via the web in about 10 minutes. I have a client who I dared to become a ULC Minister... and he did it.

One could argue that intent is proof enough to bring to court. She needs to draw up a prenup or contract that is as iron clad as she can get. There are no guarantees on anything - just protect her as much as possible without making her miserable in the process. My mother just remarried after being widowed and the prenup is as good as it is going to get. It took a few time to get it right but my fear was that if something happened she would not be provided for. He is a good man but you end up dealing with the family usually and money makes people do the craziest of things. You just finally let go and remind yourself that it really is only money and you can't control the outcome as much as you would like to - you can only try to soften the land.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems like your mother is playing with fire. I mean if you are not committed enough to mix assets, then it seems foolish to get "married" with or without a prenup or a marriage license. I could see a legal argument being made that they are married either way and the potential for an ugly and expensive divorce is still going to be there either way.

I also agree that its not a great idea either way. Unfortunately her "friend" in Florida (no idea who that is) says its a common thing. I will ask around & let you know what I find.

(Sorry posted this before I read the entire thread about Common law marriage and palimony suits).

And am I the only one who realizes that assets acquired prior to the "marriage" remain the sole property of the person who acquired them? That's the concern of the OP. Prenups are for handling assets acquired AFTER the marriage. In this scenario, most of the assets have already been acquired.

Look, whether they're legally married or not, they need formal legal documents to determine how to handle property in case of death or incapacitation. They need living wills to cover actions to take in serious illness--keep alive with machines or do not resuscitate, for example. They probably should set up a trust to avoid probate and to fairly divide assets among each other and their children upon the death of either or both. At the very least, they need to change their wills if they have any.

Mazeltov!

Crazytree said: catanpirate said: It's not binding. I'm a minister.Anyone here can become a minister via the web in about 10 minutes. I have a client who I dared to become a ULC Minister... and he did it.

Yeesh! And here I spent 7 years and learned to read several languages!

I spoke to a client of mine who is a shyster divorce lawyer (best way to describe him). Our family lawyer should be getting back to me today with a phone call.

Anyway, he (the shyster) did say that a religious ceremony is not a legally binding marriage. He said you could also spin in a circle chanting which wouldn’t make you any more "married" in the eyes of NYS. He did say to play it safe you could do a prenup but its not necessary. Then he offered to do the prenup. She has most of her money in Muni bonds & other money market (perceived low risk) funds, I have always wondered if she has a prenup, if that municipal bond income is considered money earned as a couple (even though she bought the bonds before marriage).

Again this is likely 1+ years in the future as they have been dating for 4 months. As my sister said "I would have married any of my boyfriends the first 6 months in a relationship". She is right about that 'honeymoon' period at the beginning of a relationship.

Currently my sister & I are both health proxies & my mothers will spells out her wishes for distributing her estate. I think at this point even if she were married, she would leave things alone (10 years from now who knows).

My feeling is that my mother wants the ring, the party, & the feeling that someone will be there, but she doesn’t want, to mix money, to change her name, or be legally responsible if he gets sick (in terms of Medicare eating all of her money before they pay for him).

To me the simplest thing to do is to live together (when they are ready) like a married couple however its not my life.

Thanks,
Rich

Yeah nobody should get engaged until they have spent at least 1 year together and know the sesonal stressing and the non wonderful moments. Biochemically, we are in lust for 3-6 months of a new relationship more then just love. Think about it that is why people usually break up around 3-6 months. Nobody can be on their best behavior for more then a year so before engagement you need to see the lazy slobby farting bitchy side of a person and learn if you still love them when they are in their worst most annoying moods. I've also been dating a guy for about 4 months and let me tell you although I adore the guy there is no way in a million years I would entertain the idea of marriage after this little time.



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