Years ago, I remember a television interview where a hipster explained why he and his longtime girlfriend lived together rather than being married. He said “man, we do not need a piece of paper to prove our love”. Perhaps the dude is correct when it comes to conveying the couple’s amorous feelings to the world. But in the law, one needs to have a marriage certificate to prove they qualify for many legal rights. Wake up call to the bro, it is more than a “piece of paper”.
One area of importance is the right of inheritance. A surviving spouse is an heir at law. Whereas a boyfriend, girlfriend or partner is not. While one can include a person with the latter designation in their will, the position of such a beneficiary is more vulnerable to challenge by blood relatives of the deceased in a court battle. Additionally, in Georgia a surviving spouse has the option to file something known as a petition for years support to claim part of their deceased spouse’s estate. One must be married to the deceased at the time of death to assert this right.
Another legal area where marriage is extremely important is in wrongful death cases. Being “romantically linked” to someone killed in an automobile accident is not the same as being a spouse. While a surviving spouse has the right to bring a cause of action in a wrongful death action for the loss of their spouse, a significant other does not.
Incidentally, the term “Baby Daddy” was only added to the dictionary in recent years. It is not a legal term. It often refers those who are the unmarried biological father of a child but who are “not in the picture” when it comes to raising and financially supporting their offspring. Some in this category avoid having their name placed on a child’s birth certificate. In doing so many hope to avoid the financial responsibility of being a father. Yet those in such a category are normally the first to come running out of the woodwork when a minor child is killed in an auto or 18 -wheeler accident. They wish to seek compensation for a child they hardly knew and did not support financially or otherwise. The right to pursue a wrongful death action for a minor is vested in the parents of the child. The parents need not be married to have this right. However, if Mr. “Baby Daddy” denied paternity at the time of birth, he may have an uphill battle claiming a right of compensation for his issue wrongfully killed in an accident.
Many rights in our laws flow from bloodline and marriage. These traditions are ancient and change much more slowly than societal trends. Ours is a free society and people have broad discretion to legally cohabitate and procreate in any way that the law does not forbid. The law does not dictate morals but it does spell out specific rights for those who are married vs. those who are not. Common Law marriage was abolished many years ago in Georgia. Thus, if someone wishes to protect the legal rights of the person they have elected to hold out to the world as their partner, they may wish to take the significant step of walking down the aisle and saying “I do” as well. This is especially true if they chose to have children together.
Marriage indeed matters in the law. And when you need help with legal matters, call the one you can trust. Contact Chris today … click here.