Over the last year or so I have written numerous blogs relating to same-sex marriage: From the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to how the various court rulings around Florida muddied the waters for those same-sex couples who wanted to tie the knot.
The tide has finally turned and Florida has become the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage. While many rushed to the altar to become a part of history, others have said they will wait.
Whatever path same-sex couples choose, there are things that any soon-to-be married couple needs to take into consideration before getting a marriage license.
First, Florida law requires a three-day waiting period between the times a couple applies for a marriage license and actually has a ceremony. There is an exception: Those who complete a marital counseling course can skip the waiting period.
The ability for same-sex couples to marry now gives them rights and protections that other married couples enjoyed including:
- Social Security benefits including spousal survival benefits, spousal retirement benefits and lump sum death benefits
- Veteran and military benefits
- Tax benefits
- Immigration benefits
If there are children involved and only one parent is the legal guardian then you might want to consider a second parent adoption. That way if one parent dies, the other one becomes the legal parent without needing to get the court involved. This also gives the parent who did not adopt legal rights (to timesharing) as well as legal responsibilities (to child support).
Any property purchased while married will be considered jointly owned and your spouse may have some rights to the appreciation of your pre-marital property as well. If you want to keep things separate, then a prenuptial agreement is the way to go.
In most cases money earned by each spouse during the marriage, assets purchased, or debts incurred are considered marital assets and liabilities to be equally distributed should you divorce.
Should the marriage fall apart there’s also alimony to consider if there is a big disparity in income, or if one of the partners does not work.
Couples who have been living together have had to sign agreements to determine who inherits what if one of them dies without a will. If you are married, the surviving spouse will inherit at least 50 percent of the property, even if the spouse dies without a will, and they will not have to pay inheritance or gift taxes.
There are a number of other pros and cons to marriage and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Those same-sex couples considering marriage should discuss these and other matters with a family law attorney before tying the knot.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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