November 8, 2013

Is marriage good for your health?

Marriage has legal and emotional benefits, but does it also have health benefits? A new research study answers that question with a resounding yes. This new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that being married may significantly improve the likelihood of surviving cancer. “Being married may help cancer survival,” posted by John Bonifield, September 23, 2013,

The study found a 20% reduction in deaths among patients who were married as compared to those who were unmarried. According to the article, this is a bigger benefit than several kinds of chemotherapy used to treat cancer. This statistic is attributable to the fact that, according to the study, “patients who were married were more likely to detect their disease early, receive potentially curable treatments and live longer.” Spouses may stay on top of their partner’s health and encourage them to go for screenings, follow up appointments, etc. and can also offer support (physical and emotional) during difficult treatments. An unmarried person may not have these same live-in protective benefits.

One of the study’s author’s believes that these protective benefits do not have to come from a spouse. An unmarried person may enjoy these same health benefits by confiding in a friend or loved one about a potential health problem. Further, any unmarried person can lean on a friend or loved one during diagnosis and treatment to help them get through the difficult time, both physically and emotionally. The important thing is that you have someone to depend on – whether it is a spouse with whom you live, or a friend on which you can rely.

May 6, 2013

Age Requirement for Marriage in Georgia

In Georgia, a person must be at least 18 years of age to legally marry. OCGA §19-3-2(a)(2). The one exception to this age requirement is that a 16 or 17 year old may get married in this state so long as he/she has the requisite parental consent. OCGA §19-3-2(b).

In cases where the parties applying for a marriage license are 16 or 17 years old, the parties must first submit proof of their ages. Proof may include “a birth certificate, driver's license, baptismal certificate, certificate of birth registration, selective service card, court record, passport, immigration papers, alien papers, citizenship papers, armed forces discharge papers, armed forces identification card, or hospital admission card containing the full name and date of birth.” OCGA §19-3-36. The parents or guardians of the underage applicants must then “appear in person before the judge and consent to the proposed marriage, provided that if physical presence because of illness or infirmity is impossible, an affidavit by the incapacitated parent or guardian along with an affidavit signed by a licensed attending physician stating that the parent or guardian is physically incapable of being present shall suffice.” OCGA §19-3-37(b).

Additionally, if the parents or guardians live in a different Georgia county than the applicants, they can appear before the court in the county in which they reside. OCGA §19-3-37(c)(1). If the parents or guardians live in a different state, they may appear before the judicial authority in their state. OCGA §19-3-37(c)(2). In either of these cases, “the parents or guardians shall obtain a certificate from the judge of the probate court or the proper judicial officer before whom they have appeared with the seal and title of the official appearing thereon, the certificate containing information to the effect that the parents or guardians appeared before the judge or judicial officer and consented to the proposed marriage.” OCGA §19-3-37(c)(3).

October 22, 2012

Is Living Together Prior to Marriage a Bad Idea?

The short answer is: It depends. Now, for the longer answer…..

For years, the perception surrounding pre-marital cohabitation has been negative. In fact, many speculate that living together prior to marriage may even put couples at a higher risk for divorce once they married. However, new studies suggest that these negative connotations may not be based in reality.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, in its report entitled, Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States, under certain circumstances, the likelihood that couples who cohabitate together prior to marriage will stay for over 5 or 10 years may be higher than those who do not. Let’s take a looks at the numbers...

According to the CDC’s study, only 76% of men who cohabitate with their first wife prior to marrying her are likely to enjoy a marriage that last longer than 5 years, as opposed to 79% of men who did not cohabitate with their future spouses. The likelihood that the marriage would last for over 10 years was even bleaker. The probability that a man who cohabitated with his future spouse will still be in that marriage over 10 years later is 63%, as opposed to a 69% success rate for those men who did not cohabitate. The numbers were similar for women who reported cohabitating with their future spouse prior to marriage. For women, the likelihood that a marriage will last over 5 years is 78% for women who do cohabitate and 79% for those who do not. The likelihood that a marriage will last over 10 years is 61% for women who cohabitate and 66% for those who do not.

Although the results of this study seem to validate the negative connotations held by many regarding the negative impact cohabitation may have on marriage, the CDC study goes on to analyze the likely marital success rate of couples who are engaged at the time of their premarital cohabitation. According to the CDC study, it is more likely that a marriage between two people who were engaged while cohabitating will be successful over 5 or 10 years than marriages between people who do not cohabitate.

The likely success rates for men who cohabitate with their fiancés prior to marriage is 79% (as opposed to 71% who do not) after 5 years, and 71% (as opposed to 53% who do not) after 10 year. For women, the likely success rate is 82% (as opposed to 72% who do not) after 5 years, and 65% (as opposed to 55%) after ten years. For a visual breakdown of these numbers, check out Tables 16 and 17 listed in the study.

Thus, it seems as if the old adage that living together prior to marriage is a recipe for disaster is not entirely true after all. In fact, according to this recent study, living with your fiancé prior to marriage may be the prescription for a longer lasting marriage.

By A. Latrese Martin, Law Clerk, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

June 22, 2012

More couples choosing to cohabitate, but remain unmarried

In Georgia and in other parts of the country, more and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. More couples stay happily unmarried, by Gracie Bonds Staples, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 11, 2012. According to a recent article on, a New York based marketing communications agency conducted a survey, which found that 45% of never-married women and 68% of never-married men prefer a long term, committed relationship to marriage. This is, in part, due to the fact that moral judgments about cohabitation have largely disappeared. In addition, women’s gains in education and the workplace combined with an economy that values communication and negotiation skills (values more predominant among women) have made marriage non-essential for many people.

Living together without being married can legally mean different things in different states. Unfortunately in some states, such as Georgia, cohabitating partners have no legal benefits. Georgia does not recognize domestic partnerships or common law marriage, unless it was legally entered into prior to January 1, 1997. OCGA §19-3-1.1. Thus, parties in Georgia who choose to live together without legally marrying cannot divorce. What this means, practically speaking, is that neither party will be entitled to alimony or equitable division of assets if the relationship falls apart. A court will, therefore, not get involved and the parties will have to work everything out on their own. This could be particularly problematic if the parties own property together and have other joint assets, such as bank accounts, or if one party was the primary “bread winner” while the other party chose not to work. These are all issues you should think about, and possibly discuss with your partner, if you choose to cohabitate without getting married.

October 24, 2011

Bigamy case in Cobb County, Georgia

In Georgia, to be able to enter a valid marriage, a person must “have no living spouse of a previous unresolved marriage.” OCGA §19-3-2(3). Further, “[t]he dissolution of a previous marriage in divorce proceedings must be affirmatively established and will not be presumed.” Id. Any marriage that violates this bigamy provision is void in Georgia. OCGA §19-3-5. A Cobb County woman recently found herself on the wrong side of this law. Woman, 48, accused of bigamy, theft, by Alexis Stevens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 10, 2011. The woman married her first husband in Gwinnett County on January 16, 2004 and married her second husband on April 19, 2007 in Cobb County. Id. However, she was not divorced from her first husband until April 7, 2008. Id. Apparently, when she applied for a marriage license with her second husband, “she allegedly stated that she had been married time and that she had divorce in 2001.” Id. Interestingly, this woman’s bigamous acts were not discovered until she allegedly tried to steal a truck.

In addition to her second marriage being void under Georgia law, this woman also faces a criminal charge of bigamy. According to the criminal code, “[a] person commits the offense of bigamy when he, being married and knowing that his lawful spouse is living, marries another person or carries on a bigamous cohabitation with another person.” OCGA §16-6-20(a). If this woman is convicted of the offense of bigamy, she “shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.” OCGA §16-6-20(c).

September 5, 2011

Common law marriage in Georgia

Atlanta divorce attorneys are often asked about common law marriage. According to Georgia law, “no common-law marriage shall be entered into in this state on or after January 1, 1997.” OCGA §19-3-1.1. If a valid common-law marriage was entered into prior to January 1, 1997, it will continue to be recognized in Georgia. Id. There are three requirements for a valid common law marriage: the parties must be able to contract, must agree to live together as man and wife, and must consummate this agreement. Ga. Osteopathic Hosp. v. O’Neal, 198Ga. App 770, 778 (1991). In addition, “the fact of cohabitation is treated as essential, if not the main factor in establishing in this State a common-law marriage.” Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. Smith, 151 Ga. App. 270, 271 (1979). If all of these requirements were met BEFORE January 1, 1997, the common-law marriage will likely be recoginzed in Georgia.

Parties to a valid common law marriage entered into prior to January 1, 1997 may obtain a divorce and ask the court to award alimony equitable distribution, and/or child support. After January 1, 1997, you must have a valid ceremonial marriage in order for the marriage to be recognized.

August 29, 2011

Prohibited marriages in Georgia - Degrees of relationship

In Georgia, there are certain degrees of relationship within which marriage is prohibited. Specifically, marriage is prohibited between the following relationships: (1) Father and daughter or stepdaughter; (2) Mother and son or stepson; (3) Brother and sister of the whole blood or the half blood; (4) Grandparent or grandchild; (5) Aunt and nephew; and (6) Uncle and niece. OCGA §19-3-3(a). These marriages are forbidden whether the relation is by blood or marriage. Id. In addition to these marriages being “void from their inception,” a person who knowingly enters a marriage prohibited by this law “shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than three years.” OCGA §19-3-3(a) and (b).

In addition, if there is another state that allows a marriage within the degrees prohibited in Georgia, such a marriage performed there will not be recognized in this state. The law clearly states that “[p]arties residing in this state may not evade any of the laws of this state as to marriage by going into another state for the solemnization of the marriage ceremony.” OCGA §19-3-43. Thus, the parties will not be entitled to any of the benefits of marriage in Georgia, including the ability to obtain a divorce.

August 26, 2011

Prohibited marriages in Georgia - Same sex marriage

In Georgia, same sex marriage is prohibited. Specifically, Georgia law states that it is “the public policy of this state to recognize the union only of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.” OCGA §19-3-3.1(a). In addition, even if a same sex couple marries in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, such as New York, the marriage shall be void in Georgia. Thus, the parties will not be recognized as spouses in Georgia and will not be “entitled to the benefits of marriage,” which include the ability to obtain a divorce. OCGA §19-3-3.1(b). Georgia law further states that “the courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction whatsoever under any circumstances to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to such marriage or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties’ respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such marriage.” Id. Georgia courts, therefore, will not get involved at all and, if a legal issue arises incident to the same sex relationship, it must be addressed in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, though the parties will have to overcome any jurisdictional hurdles in that state.

August 22, 2011

Before you can get divorced in Georgia, you must have a valid marriage

Before a person can get divorced, they must have a valid marriage. In Georgia, to constitute a valid marriage, there must be: (1) Parties able to contract; (2) An actual contract; and (3) Consummation according to law. OCGA §19-3-1. To be able to contract marriage, a person must: (1) Be of sound mind; (2) Be at least 18 years of age, or be 16 or 17 years of age with parental consent; (3) Have no living spouse of a previous unresolved marriage; and (4) Not be related to the prospective spouse by blood or marriage within the prohibited degrees. OCGA §19-3-2. To have an actual contract, the parties must have “actually contracted to be man and wife in the forms and with the solemnities required by law.” Pitts v. State, 147 Ga. 801, 803 (1918).

If any of these prerequisites is missing, the marriage is not valid in Georgia and the parties cannot be awarded equitable distribution of their assets or alimony. If you are unsure whether you have a valid marriage and are, therefore, able to obtain a divorce, contact a Georgia divorce or family law attorney to assist you.