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Marriage Laws of the Fifty States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico


This table links to the marriage laws of the states and attempts to summarize some of their salient points. Those interested in the marriage law of a particular jurisdiction should review its law directly rather than rely on this summary which may not be fully accurate or complete.

Related LII materials include:

Marriage

Definition

The legal union of a couple as spouses.  The basic elements of a marriage are: (1) the parties’ legal ability to marry each other, (2) mutual consent of the parties, and (3) a marriage contract as required by law.

See also Common-law marriage.

Overview

In the English common law tradition from which our legal doctrines and concepts have developed, a marriage was a contract based upon a voluntary private agreement by a man and a woman to become husband and wife. Marriage was viewed as the basis of the family unit and vital to the preservation of morals and civilization. Traditionally, the husband had a duty to provide a safe house, pay for necessities such as food and clothing, and live in the house. The wife’s obligations were maintaining a home, living in the home, having sexual relations with her husband, and rearing the couple’s children. Today, the underlying concept that marriage is a legal contract still remains, but due to changes in society the legal obligations are not the same.

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