Legal perks of marriage in NY State?
June 28, 2011 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Legal perks of marriage in New York State?

What will being married allow a spouse to do in terms of the legal system in New York State?

I know that the spouse can be placed on the other's health insurance and be allowed to make medical decisions if the partner is incapacitated. What does marriage allow for that Common Law does not?
posted by ayc200 to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well for one thing, New York state doesn't appear to allow the creation of common law marriages, although it may recognize those that are formed outside the state.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:41 PM on June 28, 2011

File a joint state income tax return.
posted by AskGMoney at 8:48 PM on June 28, 2011

I'd assume it would help parental rights/child custody in the case of adoption, surrogate birth, or one-bio-parent kind of situation of a same-sex marriage.
posted by greta simone at 8:59 PM on June 28, 2011

Would argue that joint health insurance is not solely a benefit for the marrieds in NYS, or at least not in NYC where a means for domestic partnership was available. My domestic partner was a covered on my employer-supplied insurance. It seemed to be up to my employer, who specified that domestic partners could be put in the 'spouse' space.

Perhaps someone will tell me that my employer was wrong to do so. Anyway, I see how this doesn't really answer the gist of your question, but for accuracy's sake....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:01 PM on June 28, 2011

What will being married allow a spouse to do in terms of the legal system in New York State?

Here's an incomplete summary of legal effects of marriage in New York state:
  • not forced to testify in court against spouse
    • recognition of privileged communication between spouses
  • ability to make medical decisions on other's behalf
  • can seek wrongful death compensation
  • inheritance considerations
    • especially in absense of will
    • ability for surviving spouse to contest bequests
  • pension plan or social security benefit eligibility
  • qualifying for employer benefits through spouse (ie. health insurance)
  • automatically hold property as tenants in common
  • confined inmate may attend funeral or deathbed of spouse
  • adult spouses may adopt together
  • spouse of military voter may register him/her and may vote as absentee voter
  • personal income tax laws which apply to married persons
    • marital deduction to gift tax
  • inclusion of spouse in group life insurance
  • consent of spouse to removal of body from cemetery
  • applicability of bigamy law
  • applicability of adultery law
  • crimes between spouses may be heard in family court
Obligations / Restrictions:
  • ineligibility of spouses to serve as trustees of savings bank / savings & loan associations
  • included in contribution and receipt limitations as spouses of candidates for election to public office
(And that's only at the state level, and doesn't include federal effects like eligibility for spousal immigration visas)

You asked specifically about which of those would not apply in cases of common law marriages. (What does marriage allow for that Common Law does not?) AFAICT, if you can prove a legal common law marriage, then they should all apply. So, the benefits of marriage in relation to common law reduces to:
  • ease of proving legal marriage (and effective date)
  • mechanism for divorce (doesn't exist for common law marriages)

posted by ceribus peribus at 9:38 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Health benefits via domestic partnership in NYS were considered taxable income --- via marriage they are not. In other words, whatever your employer paid for your partners health benefits was considered additional income and was taxed.

Another question is -- what are the divorce benefits? Can a spouse keep the house--which is in both names--without having to remortgage the house (ie.qualify for a mortgage on his/her own)?
posted by vitabellosi at 3:38 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm also interested in how same sex divorce, when there are children involved, has the potential to finally break NYS's routine assumption that mothers retain custody of children. If there are two fathers or two mothers, they're going to have to come up with some new ideas about it. So, actually, gay rights have the potential to benefit straight men.

Someone track this and do your dissertation on it...I'm too old to do it myself.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:43 AM on June 29, 2011

I'm sorry --- I know that arguments for gay marriage were based on how much gay people love each other and I seem focused on when relationships end. I happen to know that gay relationships end, just like straight relationships, and the state intervenes. Here's another one:

Two lesbians adopt a baby together. Because its a foreign adoption, only one of them legally adopts the baby. They plan to add the second mom through legal process in NYS. They never get around to it.

Years go by, with both women raising their child. They break-up. Legal mom realizes not legal mom has no rights, refuses not legal mom contact with child. (True story)

My understanding is that if they had been a straight married couple --even if the not legal mom was a stepmom, she would've had rights to see her child.

Until you see specific scenarios play out---it's hard to understand the role marriage rights play in the life course.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:02 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A rental car company told me the other day that your spouse is automatically entitled to drive a car that you rent (in New York) without showing up at the counter and filling out all the paperwork. I don't know if this applies to all rental car companies or was just the policy of the place I was dealing with.
posted by Phredward at 5:27 AM on June 29, 2011

Phredward, that happened to me in Maui a decade ago. I wasn't married, and they wanted to charge us an additional fee if both of us were going to drive the car.
posted by luckynerd at 9:00 AM on June 29, 2011

For clarification: do you mean common law as defined by the state as married but without the paperwork, or do you mean common law as in a live-in relationship that is socially considered the equivalent of marriage?

Because in most jurisdictions the two are quite different - the first is often the same as being married with a ceremony whilst rights in the second may be the same as plain roommates (as in none).
posted by plonkee at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2011

On common law marriages in NYS: there is no common law marriage in NYS, although out-of-state common law marriages may be recognized under full faith and credit. If you have a common law marriage from PA, and then you move to NYS, then your marriage could be recognized in NYS, giving you all the same rights as "normal" marriage in NYS.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:17 AM on June 29, 2011

How do taxes work when you're married in the eyes of the state you reside in, but not in the eyes of the federal government and the IRS?
posted by marsha56 at 5:38 PM on June 29, 2011

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