The Legal Benefits of Marriage That Couples Should Know About

legal benefits of marriage

The Legal Benefits of Marriage That Couples Should Know About

Social security and health insurance benefits aren’t exactly a romantic topic, and you likely won’t think about it as you’re getting engaged. However, if you and your significant other are still on the fence about whether you should tie the knot or not, it’s important to know the legal benefits that married couples are entitled to. Marriage simplifies many legal issues that non-married couples often face. Here are the main legal benefits of marriage that you may not have considered before.

Tax Benefits

Marital Tax Deduction

Perhaps the biggest tax benefit a married couple can receive is an unlimited marital tax deduction. What this means is you can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to your spouse whenever you like, free of tax. This also includes leaving assets without gift or tax subjection. Gift tax is when you transfer property to someone without receiving anything (or less than full value) in return. When you’re married and transferring property or money to your spouse, you’re not liable to pay gift tax.

Filing Taxes Jointly

In addition to the marital tax deduction, married couples also get benefits for filing taxes jointly. By doing this, your income threshold increases, and you can qualify for more tax breaks. For example, the standard deduction for a single person in 2020 was $12,400, while the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly was $24,800. 

Social Security

The Social Security Administration also offers benefits to married couples for which non-married couples cannot qualify. In the unfortunate event that your spouse dies, you may be entitled to up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefits (if you were married for more than ten years). That way, even if you were not eligible for Social Security, you would still continue to receive some benefits if your spouse dies. In some cases, you may even be entitled to Medicare under your spouse’s Social Security benefits. These types of benefits end if you remarry before the age of 60. 

Widowers and widows usually qualify for survivor benefits, but if you remarry before the age of 60, you lose that benefit. However, if the remarriage ends, you will again be eligible for survivor benefits.


Over the course of a marriage, you can use an Individual Retirement Account in several ways. For example, you can contribute to your spouse’s IRA in case they are unemployed if you want to take care of their retirement account. You can also roll over your spouse’s IRA into your own retirement account without paying tax if your partner passes away. However, there are certain stipulations on loans, caps on contributions, distributions, and inherited assets, so you need to consult with your financial advisor or CPA to get the full picture.

Home Mortgage

Did you know that married couples generally qualify for more mortgage money compared to single or non-married couples? Of course, you both need to show proof of a stable income, low debt-to-income ratio, and a good credit rating, but other than that, you will likely qualify for better mortgage conditions from your lender, which can enable you to buy a bigger and nicer home.


Upon getting married, you and your spouse immediately become each other’s next of kin, thus replacing parents and siblings as your closest relatives in the eyes of the law. This means that your spouse stands to receive the majority of your assets if you die without a will that distributes your wealth differently. It also means any inheritance either of you receives upon the other one’s death isn’t likely to be taxed. However, if your spouse has left a will, your right of “next of kin” won’t come into effect. The will would control how and to whom your deceased spouse’s assets will be distributed.

Decision Making

Another little-known legal benefit of marriage is decision-making. If your spouse becomes incompetent or incapacitated, usually after an accident or an illness, you have the right to make decisions on their behalf. A couple that is in a non-legal relationship does not have the same rights. 

So, if you aren’t married or planning to tie the knot but would like to be each other’s legal decision-makers if the other isn’t capable of making responsible decisions, it’s advisable to prepare certain documents. These include an advanced health care directive and a power of attorney. That way, if you need to make important life choices when your partner is unable to, you will have the legal right to do so. Of course, it’s best to consult with an attorney before drafting this paperwork to ensure you understand your options and rights.


As a married couple, the law naturally assumes that any children are the offspring of the people in the marriage. This means there’s no need to further to prove the paternity of the child or children. Marital paternity is supported by most states.

Health and Life Insurance

One of the constant and most direct legal benefits of being married, especially for single-income families, is the shared coverage that comes from a spouse’s employment-based health insurance policy. Many insurance policies provided by employers cover the employee, their children, and their spouse. Out-of-pocket insurance is typically very pricey, especially when children are involved.

It doesn’t end with health insurance. Upon marriage, any pre-existing life insurance should be updated with the new spouse’s details so they can be added as a beneficiary. If you fail to name your new spouse in your life insurance policy, they may get nothing after your death. By the same logic, if you forget to change your life insurance policy after a divorce, your ex can collect the life insurance benefit if you die. However, if children are involved, the court might order you not to remove your former spouse from your medical or life insurance policies.

Leave Allowance

There are differences in leave allowance from state to state, but you can likely qualify for the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It entitles you to take time off to take care of a family member that is sick. When you’re married, you have additional benefits. These include:

1) Up to 12 weeks of time off if your spouse has a serious medical condition and you need to take care of them.

2) Military family leave for up to 14 days if your spouse is a service member who is on leave from active duty or has been called to active duty.


As ironic as it may sound, married couples going through a divorce can share more benefits than non-married couples going through a breakup. Divorce entitles each party to receive an equal distribution of marital assets. If you weren’t married to your partner and are separating, the law cannot protect you in requesting to split your shared assets equally. In some cases, you may also be entitled to receive spousal support or ‘alimony’ as it’s often referred to after a divorce. 

Understanding your rights as a married couple is important for protecting your assets even if you decide to get a divorce. If you need further clarification about the various aspects of family law, feel free to consult with one of Legal Chiefs’ legal experts! 



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Family Law FAQ

With major life events and changes, it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer. Getting through a divorce may also be a very stressful project and you need someone experienced to protect your rights as well as protect your children’s rights (if you have any). Here at Legal Chiefs, we can get you in touch with someone current with the laws in your state concerning divorce, marriage, marital property, child custody, visitation, and family support
The grounds for divorce may be based on no-fault or fault depending on the state, but no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states. Most of the states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither of the partners blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage and common bases for no-fault divorce may be “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “irreconcilable differences.” Suppose the parties have lived separately for a certain period with the intent that the separation is permanent. In that case, it is another common basis of no-fault, but once again, the specifics vary from state to state. With a fault-based divorce, the list of grounds may include physical cruelty, mental cruelty, adultery, attempted murder, habitual drunkenness, desertion, use of addictive drugs, impotence, insanity, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease.
While every divorce starts with a bit of bitterness, statistics show that most of the cases are settled without the need for a judge to decide on a property or other issues. In most cases, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a “marital settlement agreement”, a contract between the married couple that divides property and debts and resolves other divorce issues. However, having a family law attorney is still recommended, and in case the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Once again, the specifics vary from state to state, but many states allow both parties to keep their separate and nonmarital properties as a starting point. Another thing to know about assets and divorce is how dividing marital or community property works. Again, each state has its specifics, and some states are community property states by definition. For example, the state of California divides equality marital property unless a premarital agreement specifies otherwise. However, most states apply the “equitable distribution” concept where the court divides the marital property as it thinks fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 division. The common factors considered by the court include the amount of nonmarital property, each spouse’s earning power, waste and dissipation, fault, services as a homemaker, duration of the marriage, age, health, and others.
When parents can’t agree on custody of their child/children, the court will decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” There are many factors involved, not one of which is considered the most important.
Joint custody has two parts - joint legal custody and joint physical custody, and a joint custody order can have both or one of the parts. ● Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the significant decisions regarding their child/children, which usually include school, health care, and religious training. Other decisions may include summer camps, extracurricular activities, the age for dating or getting a job, discipline methods, etc. ● Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible and can range from dividing the time between the two parents’ equality to visits every other weekend, and so on. The residing addresses of the parents are often considered, and living close is important, especially in situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally.
Since 1965, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. However, granting such rights is not automatic, and in most cases, grandparents merely have grounds for asking for a visitation order. Most commonly, a grandparent may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some states allow petitions when the child has previously lived with the grandparent, a child is born out of wedlock, and when a parent is incarcerated.
Unlike most legal matters where specifics depend on the state, talking to a judge separately is prohibited in all 50 states. All communication with the judge takes place on the record during a hearing. This is a way of ensuring fairness to both sides, and just as you would not want the judge to talk to the other party without you being present, the judge is not allowed to talk to you without the other party being present.
Only before a judge has done anything on the case, each party files one “peremptory challenge.” It costs $450, and there is no way to waive this fee. A new judge will be randomly assigned to your case, meaning you cannot pick the new judge. Be careful with the strict timing requirements for filing a peremptory challenge, as the money spent on a challenge is not refunded.