If you are among those who received a marriage proposal for Valentine’s Day, congratulations. But now what? Yes, there are dates to set, wedding planners to hire and dresses and tuxes to try on. Frankly, weddings are so much fun that I’d be a wedding planner if I weren’t a family law attorney. However, before the fun begins, you and your new fiance should consider some serious questions. Though most people never consult a family attorney before the wedding, sometimes it makes good sense. Here are some issues that a family attorney might help you sort out before the big date.
Impediments to Marriage
The requirements for marrying in Louisiana are relatively simple: the absence of a legal impediment; a marriage ceremony and free consent of the parties to take each other as husband and wife, expressed at the ceremony. La. C.C. art. 87. Yet, if you miss any of these steps, you are not legally married even if you have a marriage certificate saying otherwise.
Impediments to marriage are relatively rare and include matters such as being too closely related or being a minor. One impediment, however, that might rain on your parade is if your betrothed is already married. If you or your intended have been married previously, check to ensure that all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed when you and/or your fiance obtained his or her prior divorce.
Is Covenant Marriage For You?
The State of Louisiana recognizes two types of marriage: standard and covenant. Most couples, 99% in fact, opt for the standard marriage. A select few, however, due to religious, personal or other reasons choose Covenant Marriage. In a Covenant Marriage, the couples are required to undergo premarital counseling with marriage counselor, priest, rabbi, or minister. Before the wedding, the couples sign a notice of intent to enter into a Covenant Marriage, including that they believe marriage is for life and that they have disclosed to one another everything that would adversely affect the decision to enter into marriage, and that they have read the Covenant Marriage Act pamphlet provided by the Louisiana Attorney General. After the wedding, the couple execute an affidavit attesting that they have met all of the requirements for a covenant marriage. The couples’ pre-marital counselor also signs this affidavit.
The State of Louisiana is a community property state. The mere act of marrying alters property rights. In a community property regime, income earned during the marriage is the property of both spouses – regardless of who earned it; debt incurred by either spouse for the benefit of the community is the obligation of both spouses – regardless of who incurred it. If you do not want to have the legal community property regime apply to your marriage, you may alter it. However, you must do it a written agreement – preferably prior to the marriage. (You can opt out of the community property regime during marriage, but it is slightly more complicated.)
While prenuptial agreements are a very personal decision, here are some of the circumstances in which couples may choose to enter into one: having children/grandchildren from prior marriage; owning your own business; entering the marriage with significant personal or business debt; documenting separate property versus community property; and/or reducing costs and conflict relating to the distribution of property at the termination of the marriage, whether by death or divorce. The terms of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely. The agreements are very fact specific, tailored to your circumstances and as unique as your relationship.
Be forewarned – drafting a prenuptial agreement can sometimes feel like you are getting divorced before you ever say “I do.” If you believe that a prenuptial agreement is right for you, I highly recommend consulting an attorney. Further, each party should have his or her own attorney if you want the best assurance of entering into an agreement that will be upheld if ever challenged in court.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! If you become engaged today – we at the Rudd Law Firm wish you a lifetime of love and happiness.
“One of the greatest things in life is finding someone who knows all your mistakes and still thinks you are absolutely amazing.” – Unknow