Ohio’s Marriage Laws

Marriage is a legal as well as spiritual and personal relationship. When you repeat your marriage vows, you enter into a legal contract. There are three parties to that legal contract: 1) you; 2) your spouse; and 3) the State of Ohio. The state is a party to the contract because under its laws, you have certain obligations and responsibilities to each other, to any children you may have, and to Ohio.

Q.: What are the obligations of marriage?

A.: It is important for both of you to realize that you have the obligations of mutual respect, fidelity and support of each other. Both parties to the marriage must support themselves and their spouse out of their respective property or by their respective labor. If a married person is unable to do so, as in the case of injury or disease, the other spouse must assist in the support so far as the spouse is able. The duty to support also extends to the parties' biological and adopted children. Failure to provide support to your spouse or your dependents may result in a violation of Ohio law.

Q.: How do you obtain a marriage license?

A.: The probate court in each of Ohio's 88 counties is the only agency in this state authorized to issue a marriage license. Application for a marriage license must be made under oath by the contracting parties to the probate court of the county in which either party resides. If neither party is a resident of Ohio, application must be made in the county where the marriage will be solemnized.

Both parties must appear in person and state under oath the following: name, age, residence, place of birth, occupation, Social Security number, father's name and mother's maiden name, if known, and the name of the person expected to solemnize the marriage. The probate court may ask for a birth certificate showing the age of an applicant or proof of other pertinent facts.

If one or both applicants have been married before, the application must include the names of the parties to the marriage and the names of any minor children. If either party has been divorced, the places, dates and case numbers of the divorces must be provided. Also, a certified copy of the most recent divorce decree must be presented at the time of application.

There is a fee for the marriage license established by the probate court in each of Ohio's 88 counties. Check with your local probate court to obtain this cost.

There is a five-day waiting period in Ohio. No license may be issued in fewer than five days nor more than 30 days from date of application unless the probate judge, for good cause, waives the time limitation. The marriage license is good for 60 days. If the marriage is not performed within that time, a new license must be secured.

Q.: Who may contract a marriage?

A.: Male persons of the age of 18 years and female persons of the age of 16 years, not nearer of kin than second cousins and not having a husband or wife, may be joined in marriage. A minor must first obtain the consent of his or her parents, surviving parent, parent who is designated the residential parent and legal custodian of the child by a court of competent jurisdiction, the guardian of his or her person, or any of the following who has been awarded permanent custody of him or her by a court exercising juvenile jurisdiction: an adult person; the Department of Human Services or any child welfare organization certified by that department; or a public children services agency. No license to marry will be issued if either applicant is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs, or if infected with syphilis that is communicable or likely to become so.

In case either applicant is under the age of 18 years, proof of age is required. Also, any applicant who has not reached 18 years of age is required to prove that he or she has received marriage counseling satisfactory to the court.

Q.: Must a married couple use the same last name?

A.: Assumption by the wife of the husband's last name is a matter of custom and tradition. In fact, either may assume the other's name, or both may adopt a new surname upon marriage. The custom has been modified by the wife's addition of the husband's last name by hyphenation or retention of her own last name. There is nothing to prevent a person from using more than one name.

If the wife is changing her name, it is very important that she notify several agencies of this fact. These would include the Social Security Administration and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Without these changes, problems may arise concerning her driver's license and her income taxes for the Internal Revenue Service. The wife should also contact any firm with which she has credit accounts and banks that have issued her credit cards. Her employer should notify any retirement boards or various state agencies of any changes.

Q.: How does marriage affect ownership of property?

A.: In Ohio, the act of getting married does not give either a husband or wife an ownership interest in assets that were owned by the other spouse before the marriage. Assets acquired after the marriage may be owned jointly by the couple or held as the separate property of either spouse. However, if one spouse dies, the survivor may be entitled to support, an interest in real property and the right to remain in the couple's home for at least one year - even if all assets were owned in the deceased spouse's name. Other rules apply to ownership of real estate. A non-owner spouse has an ownership interest in real estate, whether acquired before or after the marriage, that cannot be released without his or her consent. In case of a divorce, the court decides how assets will be divided among the spouses.

Q.: Is a will necessary?

A.: Naturally, you always are ready and willing to protect your family from bodily harm, but you also should give consideration to protecting them from unnecessary hardship after your death, by having a lawyer prepare your will.

Even though you may be young or have very little property, it is definitely to your advantage to consult your lawyer about a will.

The death of a young person often is caused by an accident. This may result in a settlement or an award that would become part of the estate. Without a will, the share awarded to your children would be tied up in a guardianship and might not be readily available when financial support is needed. Also, each of your children would receive his or her entire inheritance share upon reaching the age of 18 if you do not provide for proper estate-planning.

With a properly executed will that includes the appropriate legal language, you can say how, when and to whom you want your estate to be divided so that your family is best served.

Remember, a will is an "ounce of prevention" against future difficulties, and it will save your family members the time and expense of estate administration.

Q.: What about insurance beneficiaries?

A.: If you already have acquired life insurance policies, you may wish to designate your spouse as a beneficiary. To do this, contact your insurance agent. If you are covered by a group insurance plan through your employer, you should advise your employer if you wish to change your beneficiaries.

Q.: How important is record keeping?

A.: There is no better time to start keeping records than the present. This is an excellent habit to develop, because you can never tell when a receipt or a check stub will save you many dollars. It would be wise to obtain a safe deposit box in which to safely keep insurance policies, marriage certificate, birth certificates, religious certificates, deeds, contracts and other valuable documents.

A checking account is a handy record-keeping device. Your canceled check acts as a valuable receipt in case any question should arise as to the payment of a bill. Furthermore, the payment of bills by check also will serve as an adequate record in case the Internal Revenue Service should question a deduction.

Q.: What is a premarital contract?

A.: A premarital agreement (also called a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement) is a contract entered into by persons about to be married, who wish to resolve issues of support, distribution of wealth and identification, separation, and/or division of property, in the event of the death of either spouse or the failure of the proposed marriage. Generally, premarital agreements can be used to divest the parties of statutory rights in each other's property that would normally arise by virtue of marriage. Consequently, they are commonly employed by persons possessed of substantial wealth who wish to preserve all or part of the wealth from the spouse, or to keep the wealth in the same family that generated it. Additional uses for premarital contracts are by those who have been previously married and wish to see that their property goes to the children of the prior marriage on the termination of the proposed marriage, and those who have had a bad experience in a prior divorce in regard to property and/or spousal support and have no wish to repeat the experience.

The information contained herein is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting with one of our attorneys.

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