Culture and Society

Does a couple need a marriage license to get married?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. All states require that couples have marriage licenses before they're considered legally married. However, the requirements for obtaining a marriage license vary from state to state. Every state requires brides and grooms to file the application together, in person. Although all states have an age requirement, the minimum age at which a person can legally marry also varies from state to state. Most states only allow people who are 18 years of age or older to marry without their parents' consent. Some states require that people who are underage obtain a judge's approval before they marry, while others allow 12-year-olds to marry -- with their parents' consent. Additionally, before marrying in some states, couples must undergo blood tests to screen for the presence of various diseases, and in other states they must attend premarital counseling. All states charge a fee for applying for a marriage license, and certain states have a waiting period between the application date and the date of issue.

    While it’s supposed to be all about two people who love each other, there are also some nonromantic, practical upsides to being legally married -- including different legal rights -- that aren’t available to people who only live together. For example:

    • Spouses can make medical decisions for each other, unless otherwise specified in their living wills.
    • In the case of hospitalization, spouses have preferential visitation rights.
    • A federal employee can take time off from work to help his or her sick spouse, mourn the passing of a spouse or assist in the care of a newborn child.
    • A spouse often enjoys his or her spouse's health insurance and pension benefits.
    • Only spouses can create life insurance trusts for each other.
    • Spouses often enjoy certain property and inheritance rights, even without wills.
    • Spouses reap certain tax benefits.
    • Insurance companies often offer family rates, even if the family just consists of a legally married couple.
    • It's easier to immigrate to the U.S. if your spouse is already a legal resident.
    • One spouse can receive the other spouse's Medicare, Social Security, disability and veteran's benefits.

    More answers from Science Channel »

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