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I Do, But Do I? The Legal Implications of Marriage in Wisconsin

Marriage is a joyous occasion and one of life’s most meaningful institutions. If you find someone you love and agree to get married, you gain a partner to share your life with. Although you shouldn’t let the legal implications of marriage get in the way of what your heart desires, the fact is that a marriage represents not only a life partner, but a legal agreement. If you’re getting married in Wisconsin, it’s essential that you understand the legal implications of doing so. In this blog post, we'll explore marriage from a legal perspective in the Badger State.

The Legal Definition of Marriage in Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin law, marriage is defined as “a legal relationship between 2 equal persons,” in which, “Each spouse has an equal obligation in accordance with his or her ability to contribute money or services or both which are necessary for the adequate support and maintenance of his or her minor children and of the other spouse.’’ Since 2014, Wisconsin has recognized both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages as long as the couple meets the legal requirements, such as being of legal age (18) and not already being married to someone else.

The Legal Implications of Marriage

When you think of a marriage, you might think of a large white dress or a tuxedo in a stately setting with lots of guests and a big cake with little figurines on top. Rest assured - from a legal perspective, none of this is required. To get legally married in Wisconsin, you first need a marriage license from your county clerk's office. In order to get a marriage license, both individuals must be present in person at the county clerk’s office with the following:

  • Valid photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport;

  • Official birth certificate, permanent resident card or naturalization papers;

  • Your social security number;

  • Around $100 for the marriage license fee (exact price varies from county to county); 

  • The date of the marriage ceremony;

  • The location of the marriage ceremony; and

  • The name, address and telephone number of the officiant performing the wedding ceremony.

After you’ve acquired your marriage license, you and your betrothed must wait at least three days (starting the day after you acquired the license) before you can redeem your license and get married. After those three days have passed, marriage licenses in Wisconsin are valid for 60 days. 

The marriage ceremony can be as extravagant or simple as you’d like. For those looking for a simple, non-religious ceremony, circuit court judges are licensed officiants and are available for marriage ceremonies.

The Legal Benefits of Marriage

When you marry in Wisconsin, you gain access to various legal benefits and protections. Some of the most significant include:

  • Financial Benefits: Married couples can file joint tax returns, potentially resulting in tax benefits, receive Social Security and Medicare benefits based on their spouse's earnings and inherit property from their spouse without paying estate taxes.

  • Health Care Benefits: Spouses can make medical decisions for each other, receive health insurance coverage through their partner's employer, and take advantage of family leave policies.

  • Parental Rights: Both spouses automatically have legal rights and responsibilities toward any children born during the marriage.

The Legal Responsibilities of Marriage

While marriage comes with many benefits, it also involves legal responsibilities that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Financial Obligations: Both spouses are generally responsible for debts incurred during the marriage, even if only one spouse accrued said debt.

  • Property Division: If the marriage ends in divorce, Wisconsin is a community property state, which means that assets and debts acquired during the marriage will be subject to equitable division.

  • Spousal Support: Depending on the circumstances of a divorce and if the couple signed a prenuptial agreement, one spouse may be required to pay alimony to the other after a divorce.

Marriage Legal Considerations and Protections

In some cases, couples consider enacting certain legal agreements to dictate the terms of a divorce (should one take place) or prepare for an unexpected death, setting a solid foundation for their marriage. One example of this type of agreement would be a prenuptial agreements. This agreement can outline how you and your partner wish to handle finances and property division in the event of a divorce.

The Everson Law Firm: Your Trusted Guide Through Marriage and Beyond

It is true that the legal aspects of marriage might not be the most romantic topic, understanding them can contribute to a stronger, more secure future for your lives together. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help ensure you're fully aware of your rights and responsibilities and have taken the necessary steps to protect your interests.

The Everson Law Firm specializes in family law matters, including prenuptial agreements, spousal support, marital property division and divorce. Contact The Everson Law Firm today to learn more about the legal landscape around marriage.


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