The Dollars and Sense of Legal Marriage Status

June 15, 2014

This month, as Illinois became the 19th state to allow same-gender couples to marry, couples happily lined up to take their vows.

The reason they – and any couple – tie the knot is about love and commitment. What often goes unmentioned are the significant legal rights and benefits – 1,400 of them in fact – that automatically flow through when a couple weds. These rights can make a substantial economic difference in a couple’s overall finances and lives together.

Among these rights are joint parenting, joint adoption, “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions, the right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains, immigration and residency for partners from other countries, domestic violence protection orders, judicial protections and immunity, automatic inheritance in the absence of a will, Social Security and Medicare benefits, child support, joint insurance plans, estate and gift tax benefits, welfare and public assistance, credit protection and hundreds more.

Other privileges granted by marriage include the right to enter into prenuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements and/or the right to have the government offer the legal protection of divorce law, even if a couple did not have a prenuptial agreement. These include tax-free property divisions upon divorcing and the rights to each other’s deferred assets accumulated during the marriage.

One of the best resources for legal rights is Lambda Legal. Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbiansgay menbisexualstransgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. The organization leads high-impact public education campaigns to help people exercise the rights they have and to build public support for equality.

In The New Love Deal, a book published by me, Terry Savage and retired Judge Michele Lowrance, we talk about many of these legal rights – whether a couple is married, moving in or moving on. At our website,, we try to update family laws as they change, and we also accept and answer questions related to one’s civil rights when it comes to family law.

In what many consider to be the most popular month for weddings, we should all be mindful of the “legal goodies” that are granted along with the words “I do.” And let’s also remember that there are still far too many people in the U.S. and worldwide who don’t have access to basic legal rights.

Allen, Glassman & Schatz, LLC