When a woman gets married, she gains several critical legal rights specific to her marital status. While some of these rights are well-known, others are less commonly known. It’s essential to be aware of all your legal rights as a married woman to be prepared in case you ever need to use them. Here are some of the most important legal rights every married woman should know about:
The Right to Change Your Name
One of the most common rights that married women exercise is the right to change their surname. In most states, a woman has the legal right to take her husband’s surname when she gets married. If you change your name, you’ll need to update your Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, and other essential documents.
You also have the right to keep your maiden name if you prefer. Many women choose to hyphenate their last names or combine their maiden and married surname. So long as you don’t change your name for fraudulent purposes, you can choose any name you want after marriage.
The Right to Marital Property
While you may not think of your home and other possessions as “marital property,” it’s important to know that the law considers them to be just that. In most states, any property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, even if it’s only in one spouse’s name. That means that, in the event of a divorce, all marital property will be divided between the spouses.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Property acquired before the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances, is typically considered separate property and is not subject to division in a divorce.
The Right to Make Medical Decisions for Your Spouse
Did you know that, in most states, you have the legal right to make medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf if they cannot do so themselves? This is known as having “durable power of attorney” and gives you the authority to decide about your spouse’s medical care if they are incapacitated.
Of course, this is a big responsibility, and you should only exercise this right if you are confident that you know what your spouse would want. If there is any doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult with other family members or your spouse’s doctor before making a decision.
The Right to File Taxes Jointly
Married couples have the choice of filing jointly or separately for their taxes. In most cases, it’s beneficial to file jointly because it can lead to a lower tax bill. However, there are some situations where it might make more sense to file separately.
For example, if one spouse has a lot of debt or is self-employed, it might be better to file separately to protect the other spouse’s financial interests. If you’re not sure which option is best for you, it’s a good idea to speak with a tax professional.
The Right to Get a Divorce
Of course, no one marries with the intention of divorcing their spouse. But the sad reality is that around 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know that you have the legal right to get a divorce.
You can get a divorce for any reason, but most couples cite “irreconcilable differences” as the cause. Once you’ve filed for divorce, you’ll need to go through the process of dividing your assets and, if you have children, determining child custody and support arrangements. You can contact the best family law firm to help you with these decisions. These professionals will also be able to help you if you need to file for a restraining order or other legal protection.
The Right to Alimony
If you are getting a divorce, you may be entitled to alimony, which is also known as spousal support. The purpose of alimony, which is often paid by the spouse with the higher income to the spouse with the lower income following a divorce, is to assist the recipient in maintaining their level of life.
Whether you are entitled to alimony will depend on several factors, including the length of your marriage, your earning potential, and whether you are the primary caretaker of your children.
There you have it! These are just a few of the most important legal rights every married woman should know about. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, so it’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney if you have any questions about your rights or need legal assistance.