Your Family and the Law – Marriage

Marriage is a contract, but not an ordinary one. Because of the importance of the family, society sets rules and imposes duties and obligations that usually do not apply to purely private agreements.

A marriage is valid everywhere if valid in the state where it takes place. Each state sets its own rules, which usually include a license, a blood test, a waiting period, and a ceremony performed by a clergyman or judge.

Some marriages are prohibited because of blood relationship, age, prior marriage, or physical or mental incapacity.

Annulments

Marriages that do not conform to the rules are not automatically void. Unless incestuous or bigamous, a marriage will be valid unless one or both parties takes legal action and has it annulled within a reasonable time.

If an underage person marries, the child’s parents can have the marriage annulled. Annulments may also be obtained on grounds of fraud if, for example, one party expressed a desire for children knowing that he or she could not or would not have any.

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Common Law Marriage

Newspapers often use the term “common-law marriage” to refer to the state of any couple living together; such use of the phrase is not accurate. A common law marriage is an agreement to marry and live together as man and wife without going through a ceremony.

In states where they are permitted, common law marriages are exactly the same, legally, as any other marriage. The difficulty lies in proving the agreement and the intention of the parties, especially if one or both is dead and there is a dispute over inheritance.

Most states no longer recognize common law marriages. However, they will recognize a common law marriage that was valid at the time it was entered into, or one made in a state that does recognize them.

The legal court

Gavel and american flag, symbol for jurisdiction

Changing a Name

A married woman often wants to continue using her maiden name; she may, for example, have established a useful professional reputation under that name. Using a maiden name is perfectly legal. In fact, anyone can use any name he or she wants, so long as there is no intent to defraud.

You could not, for example, use the name of a well-known person in order to borrow money. Getting a court order to change your name makes it official, but it is not necessary.

State laws. Some states do require women to use their married names or driver’s licenses or other documents. The state can do this, as it is responsible for public records. In these states, a woman must either comply or go to court and have her name officially changed.

Updating Records

Most women do take their husband’s names. Those women should immediately notify the Social Security Administration to avoid any possible confusion in the records, as well as employers, insurance companies, department stores where they have charge accounts, and anyone else whose records should be changed.

All About Civil Law

As a preliminary to discussing the civil law, it is once more necessary, to begin with distinctions of terminology. The phrase “civil law” is used in English in two senses. In the first, it is contrasted with “criminal” or “penal” law to denote the law that governs all the relations of citizens to each other except those which involve punishment of offenders.

In order to avoid confusion, “civil law” in this sense will be written without capitals. In the other sense, civil law is a system derived from the law of Rome. In the technical sense of this system, the words will be capitalized.

This technical sense is derived from the phrase Corpus juris civilis (“The Body of the Civil Law”), which in the early seventeenth century was applied to the compilation of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, published in A.D. 528 – 534.

civil law

Law books – the symbols of law.

The modern Civil Law is founded on this compilation although it has been subjected to other influences as well and has been substantially modified by them.

The jurisdiction in which Civil Law is the foundation of the legal system are the following:

Europe: Scotland and all the countries of the Continent except Soviet Russia.

North America: Mexico and Central America; Quebec in Canada; and Louisiana in the United States.

South America: All Countries.

Africa: South Africa; Morocco; Tunisia; Algeria (where, however, many sections and groups live under native law), and Egypt, where family and land law is of local origin and has close contact with Islamic religious law.

Asia: Turkey, except for family law and inheritance; and China and Japan, where modern codes have been established in which Civil Law has been blended with ideas of native origin.

Further, in many islands colonized and ruled by Europeans. Civil Law codes have been set up. In Indonesia, the Dutch form of Civil Law exists side by side with the native legal customs, called Adat law.

The compilation of Justinian was the final attempt at codifying the Roman law, which had had a continuous history in Western Europe from the time when Rome was a small city-state on the Tiber to the last flare-up of imperial authority in the sixth century of the Christian Era.

It is necessary to deal with the Roman law separately from the Civil Law, although when the latter was established in the West it was declared to be a continuation of the former.